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Google kills off Stadia

We gave the cloud gaming service two years to live. It managed three

Google on Thursday said it will shut down Stadia, its cloud-based game streaming service, because few people use it.

"[W]hile Stadia's approach to streaming games for consumers was built on a strong technology foundation, it hasn't gained the traction with users that we expected so we’ve made the difficult decision to begin winding down our Stadia streaming service," explained Phil Harrison, VP and general manager of Stadia, in an announcement.

Stadia's demise isn't exactly a shock. In July, a concerned individual, evidently sensing all was not well, asked via Twitter whether a shutdown is imminent. The game service responded, "Stadia is not shutting down."

Another hint of trouble surfaced in February, 2021, when Google disbanded its in-house development team for creating Stadia games.

That was about when we had predicted Google would discontinue Stadia – we gave it two years to live from its March 2019 launch. We regret the off-by-one error.

If Google keeps this up, it will never be able to shake off its reputation for being too willing to throw its products under the bus. That its executives and managers are incentivized to launch products, and not so much for maintaining them, generally speaking, fuels this whole situation.

Google is just infamous as a serial killer of products. As Matt Rickard, a former Google software engineer, observed last month, "Google's reputation for discontinuing products is unmatched."

He gives Google an out by noting that Google experiments a lot, which naturally leads to failures. But he goes on to acknowledge, "Google can't shake this meme, and it's starting to do real damage to users and the Google brand." It seems the meme follows from behavior.

Google can't shake this meme, and it's starting to do real damage to users and the Google brand

Google's demolition of Stadia leaves the US cloud-based game streaming market to Amazon Luna, Microsoft Xbox Cloud Gaming, Nvidia GeForce Now, PlayStation Plus, and some lesser known names. Netflix is said to be considering whether to join the fray. Apple, which operates on-device, cloud-coordinated Apple Arcade, is also said to be pondering a cloud gaming service.

At least Stadia users – let's gamble that this should be plural – can console themselves with the fact that Google is offering refunds.

Expressing gratitude for those Stadia players who have been with the service since its launch, Harrison said, "We will be refunding all Stadia hardware purchases made through the Google Store, and all game and add-on content purchases made through the Stadia store."

Refunds for Google hardware purchases – Stadia Controller, Founders Edition, Premiere Edition, and Play and Watch with Google TV packages – will not require returning the hardware.

To be clear, Google doesn't want the bother or expense of trashing your Stadia e-waste so don't send it back. Further details for the refund process, expected to be mostly complete by mid-January, 2023, will be posted on this support page in the weeks ahead, Google says.

Stadia aficionados will be able to access their game library through January 18, 2023. After that, not so much.

Harrison's post also alludes to layoffs on the Stadia team: "Many of the Stadia team members will be carrying this work forward in other parts of the company."

We've asked Google to confirm what's to become of those not numbered among the "many" and to put a number on those departing. We've not heard back. ®

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