Stadia user CloudKnight was eating breakfast at Huddle House when a devastating notification flashed on his phone: Google announced that the streaming service Stadia would die in just a few short months. Like a lot of Stadia fans, CloudKnight was taken aback by the news. Just a few weeks earlier, Google had said that Stadia would expand into Mexico, as well as confirming a slate of games coming to the service in the coming months. He took that as assurance that the tech giant was committed to the cause, at least in the short-term.
“I was very surprised,” he says. “I didn’t expect it at all. I have mixed feelings about the whole thing, but the main one is definitely disappointment.”
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Google Stadia’s prescribed shutdown day of January 18, 2023 continues to inch ever closer, and fans have adopted different strategies to deal with their negative emotions. Some continue to play games on the service, determined to enjoy every minute they can until the final sunset. Others have abandoned their boxes entirely, lobbying Google to make the popular Stadia controller more PC-gaming friendly as a future-proofing measure.
Stadia’s official Discord reflects this strange interim period. It’s entered a sort of hazy afterlife, with early disbelief and rage simmering down into wide-ranging discussions of modern gaming and alternatives to Stadia. Some users have expressed a desire to organize farewell events for the service’s more popular games, like Bomberman R and Red Dead Online. Others, like CloudKnight, have already moved on to other cloud gaming services, such as Amazon Luna. Though he looks back on his experience with Google’s platform with bittersweet feelings, he ultimately feels that the future of cloud gaming is assured, with or without Stadia.
“I don’t think cloud gaming is going to be affected at all,” he says. “Nvidia, Microsoft, and Amazon are all investing pretty heavily into the tech in their own ways…Cloud gaming is a niche market now, but it seems like it’s only going to grow over the coming years.”
Cyberpunk was one of the earliest big games to come to Stadia.
The Stadia community is an odd mix. While some are the hardest-of-hardcore players who have to own every console, many are lapsed gamers who have to balance their playing time with demanding careers or parenting responsibilities. Stadia allowed them to rediscover their love of gaming all over again. Stadia user Craig Wann first became aware of Stadia during its Project Stream beta in 2018. As a business owner with children to look after, Wann was attracted to its pick-up-and-play character, which he often chose over his own gaming PC. He also used Stadia to easily play games with his kids, eventually building up a library of almost 200 titles.
“Stadia’s tech was seamless,” Wann says. “It just worked. I could pick up my controller and be into a game in seconds. The stream quality was second-to-none, and I rarely experienced lag, even over WiFi…Stadia Pro exposed me to games I would never have tried otherwise, like Valkyria Chronicles and Farming Simulator.”
Google’s decision to refund every Stadia purchase outright has softened the blow for early adopters, many of whom have dumped hundreds of dollars into the service over the past three years. But though the money helps, transferring game saves or digital goods from Stadia has been anything but smooth. Google Takeout allows users to claim their save data from any game of their choice, but players have reported mixed, game-dependent success in transferring those saves to other platforms.
Many industry observers point to the closure of Stadia’s internal studios in early 2021 as a key turning point in the saga, and the service’s most hardcore fans drew similar conclusions. Wann viewed it as confirmation that Google didn’t actually want to support the service in the long term. That said, he still continued his Stadia Pro subscription until the company announced the service’s closure over a year later.
Some Stadia users have discussed having a final farewell event to the platform in Red Dead Online. Ironically, RDO ceased active development earlier this year.
Overall, Wann feels that Google underestimated the amount of money it would take to compete with established gaming firms like Microsoft and Sony. However, he was still surprised when Google announced that they were pulling the plug; though he knew Stadia probably wasn’t profitable, he simply thought that the famous company would want to avoid the black eye of a service shutdown.
Though he’s sad to see his favorite gaming service go away, Wann does feel that the certainty of a hard shutdown is better than the slow guttering that some online games suffer. In fact, he was considering cancelling his Pro subscription due to a lack of support even before the hammer dropped.
Some early adopters had less patience than Wann, however. At one point, enthusiast Jay Spurgeon owned every game available for Stadia. However, as 2021 wore on and fewer and fewer games came out for the platform, Spurgeon lost faith in Google’s support, and ultimately stopped buying games for Stadia altogether. He plans on using his refund to upgrade his gaming PC in order to play the games that he enjoyed on Stadia on another platform, such as Steam. But regardless, though he feels stung by Google, Spurgeon retains a bright view of cloud gaming in general.
“I initially had hope for Stadia due to Google’s attachment to it, and the thought that their tech was top of the line, so if anyone was to get high quality game streaming working on a mainstream level, it would be them,” Spurgeon says. “Their handling of the service will make me more skeptical of any new projects or services they plan to release down the line.”
Ultimately, though Stadia fans are still learning to accept the fate of the streaming service, they also feel that it never quite got a real shot, from both Google and the larger games space. Multiple people I spoke to for this piece cite Stadia’s status as an easy punchline or meme as an unfair label affixed by a community that didn’t even try to see the impressive tech that lay behind the veil of bizarre decisions and mismanagement. Some still aren’t quite over the loss.
“I felt bitter and incredulous about it,” says Ez, a user who relied on Stadia to play games on his sailboat. Ez points out that many Stadia developers first learned of the platform’s shutdown via online news reports, rather than from Google itself. He feels that the existing cloud gaming services aren’t quite as reliable or impressive as Stadia, and he’s still not sure if he’s going to try to find a replacement. “I think Stadia’s demise will leave an impact on the cloud gaming industry,” he says.
“Stadia’s engineering team brought a fantastic gaming platform to life,” Wann says. “Google’s management killed it… I still think cloud gaming is the future. The technology is there. It works.”
The products discussed here were independently chosen by our editors.
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