Jan 17, 2023 - Technology

Google ends its Stadia game service with an upbeat farewell

Video game screenshot showing a green snake that gets longer as it eats fruit

Worm Game. Screenshot: Google Stadia

The end of Google’s Stadia gaming service, which shuts off Wednesday, is going unexpectedly well.

Driving the news: In a pair of surprise announcements late last week, Google updated the Stadia controller’s software so it can be used with other devices and offered users one last game as a gesture of thanks.

  • That final game, called Worm Game, is a riff on the classic Snake. It was used by Google workers to test Stadia’s functionality.
  • Worm Game’s lengthy credits list hundreds of people who worked at Stadia.

State of play: Google announced in September that it would shut down Stadia on Jan. 18, ending its effort to build and grow a streaming service that was meant to disrupt traditional console and PC gaming.

  • Stadia had debuted just three years before but failed to catch on due to a mix of the lack of must-play exclusive games and limited public interest in paying to play games over a streaming connection.
  • But with the bad news came some good: Google promised to reimburse Stadia subscribers for their hardware and software purchases and began talking to developers who had games forthcoming on Stadia about compensating some of their development costs.
  • Game studios with titles on Stadia soon began notifying players how to transfer their save files to other platforms and/or get free non-Stadia versions of their games.

The big picture: Google may not have earned a lot of goodwill with Stadia’s entrance into the market, but it’s generating plenty on the way out.

One developer's experience: Necrosoft’s Brandon Sheffield tells Axios that he was disappointed not to launch his team’s game Hyper Gunsport on Stadia, where it had been scheduled for a November 2022 debut.

  • “With the Stadia shutdown, Google did offer us some compensation,” Sheffield said, “but nothing that would beat actually releasing on the platform."
  • "I'm sure that's what the Stadia team wanted too, but it just wasn't meant to be." 

Yes, but: The Necrosoft team did find a novel way to preserve the game’s predecessor, Gunsport, which had been a Stadia exclusive, by hiding it in its sequel.

  • When Google’s servers are turned off, any games only on Stadia will become inaccessible.
  • So Necrosoft tucked the original game, minus its Stadia trappings, into the code for the PC version of the new one, accessible on Steam through that platform’s beta/branch menus.
  • “Everyone who bought Hyper Gunsport on Steam already owns the original Gunsport, they may just not know it yet,” Sheffield said.
  • “We do actually care about game preservation, so we had to put our money where our mouth is.”

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