Stadia user CloudKnight was having breakfast at the Huddle House when a devastating notice appeared on his phone: Google announced that the Stadia streaming service would die in a few months. Like many Stadia fans, CloudKnight was surprised by the news. Just a few weeks ago, Google said Stadia would be expanding in Mexico, as well as confirming a list of games coming to the service in the coming months. It was seen as confirmation 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 everything, but the main thing is definitely disappointment.”
The Google Stadia shutdown day set for January 18, 2023 keeps getting closer than ever, 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 last sunset. Others have dropped their boxes entirely, and lobbied Google to make the popular Stadia console more suitable for PC gaming as a future audit.
Stadia’s official Discord reflects this strange temporary period. You’ve entered a kind of hazy afterlife, with early disbelief and anger turning into widespread discussions of modern games and Stadia alternatives. Some users have expressed a desire to organize farewell events for the service’s most popular games, such as Bomberman R and Red Dead Online. Others, like CloudKnight, have already moved to other cloud gaming services, like Amazon Luna. Although he views his experience with the Google 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 will be affected at all,” he says. “Nvidia, Microsoft, and Amazon are investing very heavily in technology in their own way…Cloud gaming is a niche market now, but it looks like it’s only going to grow over the coming years.”
The Stadia community is a strange mix. While some are the toughest players who have to own each console, many are exhausting players who have to balance their playing time with demanding careers or parenting responsibilities. Stadia has allowed them to rediscover their love of gaming anew. Stadia user Craig Wann became acquainted with Stadia during the beta of Project Stream in 2018. As a business owner with children to look after, Wann was drawn to his pick-up-and-play personality, which he often chooses on his PC for gaming. He also used Stadia to easily play games with his children, eventually creating a library of nearly 200 titles.
“Stadia’s technology was seamless,” says Wan. “It worked. I could pick up my console and be into a game in seconds. The streaming quality was second to none, and I rarely experienced lag, even over WiFi… Stadia Pro showed me games I had never tried otherwise, like Valkyria Chronicles and Farming Simulator”.
Google’s decision to refund every Stadia purchase directly cushioned the blow to early adopters, many of whom have poured hundreds of dollars into the service over the past three years. But while the money helps, transferring saved games or digital goods from Stadia wasn’t an easy thing. Google Takeout allows users to claim their saved data from any game of their choosing, but players have reported mixed game-based success moving those saves to other platforms.
Many industry watchers point to the closure of Stadia’s in-house studios in early 2021 as a major turning point in this saga, and most ardent fans of the service have come to similar conclusions. Wann took it as confirmation that Google doesn’t really want to support the service in the long run. However, he continued his Stadia Pro subscription until the company announced the closure of the service after more than a year.
Overall, Wann feels that Google has underestimated the amount of money it would need to compete with established game companies like Microsoft and Sony. However, he was still surprised when Google announced that it would pull the plug; Although he knew Stadia might not have been profitable, he simply believed that the famous company wanted to avoid the black eye of shutting down the service.
Although he’s sad to see his favorite gaming service disappear, Wann feels that the certainty of a hard shutdown is better than the slow trough some online games are experiencing. In fact, he was considering canceling his Pro subscription due to a lack of support even before the hammer fell.
However, some early adopters were less impatient than Wan. At one point in time, enthusiast Jay Spurgeon owned every game available on Stadia. However, as 2021 passed and fewer and fewer games came to the platform, Spurgeon lost faith in Google’s support, and eventually stopped buying Stadia games altogether. He plans to use the refund to upgrade his gaming PC in order to play the games he enjoyed on Stadia on another platform, such as Steam. But regardless, even though he’s taken aback by Google, Spurgeon maintains a bright vision for cloud gaming in general.
“I initially had hope for Stadia because of Google’s association with it, and the belief that their technology was at the top of the list, so if anyone was going to have high-quality game streaming that worked at the mainstream level, they would,” says Spurgeon. . “Their handling of the service will make me more skeptical of any new projects or services they plan to release in the future.”
In the end, while Stadia fans are still learning to accept the streaming service’s fate, they also feel it hasn’t gotten a real shot, both from Google and the larger gaming space. Many of the people I spoke to for this article cite Stadia as an easy line or meme as an unfair label affixed to a society that hasn’t even tried to see the great technology behind the veil of weird decisions and mismanagement. Some still haven’t quite finished the loss.
“I was bitter and suspicious 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 about the platform’s shutdown via online news reports, rather than Google itself. He feels that current cloud gaming services aren’t quite as reliable or impressive as Stadia, and he’s still not sure if he’ll try to find an alternative. “I think Stadia’s demise will have an impact on the cloud gaming industry,” he says.
“The Stadia engineering team brought a great gaming platform to life,” says Wann. “Google management has killed that…I still think cloud gaming is the future. The technology is there. It works.”
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