Cloud gaming has come a long way in the last few years, with more competition than ever before. We've even seen dedicated hardware from companies like Logitech, as the dream of playing whatever you want, whenever you want, has blossomed. Still, players have been slow to adopt cloud gaming as their main way of gaming, which probably explains why Google's latest statement on Stadia feels so unsurprising. Perhaps those rumors of its impending death weren't so exaggerated after all. Despite only being on the market for less than three years, Google is closing Stadia's doors for good in early 2023.
Google is shutting down Stadia on January 18th, 2023, giving players a few more months to play online. According to Phil Harrison, Vice President and General Manager of Stadia, the underlying technology will make its way into other parts of the company, including YouTube, Google Play, and AR, along with any interested industry partners. Meanwhile, for consumers, any hardware purchased directly through Google's storefront — along with games and DLC — are being refunded. The company issued an FAQ page that answers some burning questions Stadia fans might have, though obviously, there's plenty of confusion about what happens next.
For starters, Google isn't sure if you can take your game progress to another platform — think Amazon Luna or GeForce Now — though it doesn't rule out the possibility. That said, it sounds like most, if not all, games won't be eligible for any kind of transfer. If you've been playing most of your gaming library on Stadia, expect your save data to disappear in January.
Nearly every other section in the FAQ is, unsurprisingly, about refunds. Stadia hardware purchases — think controllers and those special Chromecast packages — are all getting refunded no matter when you bought them, assuming you used the Google Store. All Stadia players will get refunds for their game library, so the $60 you spent on, say, Borderlands 3 will find its way back into your pocket. DLC and other add-ons are included here too, but notably, Stadia Pro subscriptions are not. If you've primarily interacted with Stadia through your paid membership, that money's gone. Still, according to Google, active Stadia Pro members won't be charged for access to their Pro library during these final few months. A shred of good news for the most die-hard cloud gaming fans among us.
Google's FAQ covers most of the other questions gamers might have about refunds — what about gift cards, what if I no longer have access to that specific credit card, what about pre-orders? — but there are plenty of unanswered topics as well. While it's great that Google is planning on crediting anyone who bought Stadia hardware (through its own storefront, anyway), what are players meant to do with these soon-to-be borderline paperweights? While those Chromecast Ultras can continue working as streaming devices, Stadia's controllers only work wirelessly with the cloud platform. Although they support Bluetooth, you can't actually pair them with anything, leaving them useless as (non-wired) controllers after January 18th. According to the company's official support site, Bluetooth Classic support can be enabled at any time — it's just a matter of when and if that actually happens.
Hopefully, answers to those questions will come over the next few weeks, as Stadia users adjust to the bleak future ahead of them. Curiously, Stadia got a new desktop UI yesterday, which — according to r/Stadia's community manager — will launch for all users over the coming weeks. Consider it one last gift as Google's cloud gaming platform makes its way into the graveyard.