Google has made a few mistakes with its Stadia cloud gaming service. Maybe more than a few. Okay, it made a lot of promises it didn’t keep and said a lot of things that looked pretty laughable in retrospect and totally pulled the rug out from under its indie developers. We did our best to warn you!
And yet, me do not guess Stadia will be poorly remembered now that it’s gone – because at the end of the day, Google did well with its customers. Attention, rival companies: this is how you stop a service.
I don’t recall a company ever trying so hard to erase its mistakes: Stadia users got full hardware and software refunds, saved game transfers, even one last celebratory test game to play on the eve of the shutdown. They were given more than three months’ notice so they could finish their games, and Google gave Stadia Pro subscribers the last three months for free. It didn’t even ask them to return the hardware in exchange for those refunds – and Google added a much-requested Bluetooth mode to the controller at the last minute so people will hopefully reuse them instead of tossing them in landfills.
Google’s Stadia Experiment won’t cost you anything unless you’ve paid for a subscription
Best case scenario: Say you bought the Stadia Founder’s Edition hardware kit for $130 in 2019, played for a while Lot 2 free, then charged $60 each Borderlands 3 and Cyberpunk 2077. You had a little fun and maybe felt a little silly when Google started offering big software discounts and giving the hardware away for free.
But suddenly, you also have free hardware. Yes, Google is scrapping Stadia, but you’ve effectively spent $0 for a free Chromecast Ultra, a free Bluetooth gamepad, and countless free sessions with Google’s gaming PC-in-the-cloud. Google will pay it all back and you can even transfer your progress from those games to PC.
Of course, it will not be so rosy for every customer. Anyone who has subscribed to Google’s Stadia Pro subscription service will not be refunded their monthly fees. Many games don’t offer save game transfers, and we’re still wondering what Google will do with Stadia exclusives Pixel Junk Raiders – in that particular case, contract renegotiation is the only thing keeping the game from living on, Q-Games founder and CEO Dylan Cuthbert told me The edge. A recent tweet suggests that negotiations have not yet taken place.
And while I’m glad my Stadia controller will live on as a generic Bluetooth controller, I’m a little confused and annoyed by some of Google’s seemingly random choices there. The company only gives owners until December 31, 2023 to convert their controllers to Bluetooth – meaning gamepads stuck in the back of a warehouse, thrift store or closet may still become e-waste.
Why wouldn’t Google release a simple updater app like pretty much any other piece of hardware? And why does updating your controller to Bluetooth permanently disable the Wi-Fi radio, according to the company’s warnings? I’d like to think there’s a good legal, regulatory, or economic reason, but Google wouldn’t give one when I asked.
Still, Stadia spokesperson Patrick Seybold confirmed that Wi-Fi was only used to connect to the Stadia game servers – you’re not missing much there unless the controller gets some cool hacks – and those who don’t update to Bluetooth can still connect the controller with a USB cable.
I think I shouldn’t look a cool controller in the mouth.
Yes, there’s definitely more Google could have done, but I still have to applaud what it did. There are so many examples of companies running away from gadgets and reducing them to useless bricks. For example, I’m currently waiting to see if my Arlo Q home security cameras will succumb to that fate.
Oh, you best believe we’ll still include Google Stadia in our next flops of the decade. But when we visit his plot at the Google Graveyard, we’ll laugh instead of swear. Yes, Stadia should have been so much more, but it is workedand Google did everything it could to give it the burial it deserved.