While the Stadia gaming service shuts down on January 18, Google has announced plans to keep its controller alive. That might not seem like much in light of the whole catalog of cloud-streaming games that are becoming unavailable, but the controller really was the quiet highlight of Google’s first major step into gaming.
While full details have yet to be revealed, Google said on Twitter that it would “release a self-service tool to enable Bluetooth connections on the Stadia controller.” Google has promised to provide details during the closure.
Currently, the Stadia gamepad can only connect to the Google platform. Until these recently announced plans, when the service shuts down on January 18, the controller would be a useless piece of plastic, nickel, and silicon destined for a landfill. Now it looks like you’ll be able to use the controller with other Bluetooth-enabled devices – most likely PC and Android; maybe Apple devices and even PS5, Xbox Series X|S and Nintendo Switch.
We’ve also got some Bluetooth news: next week we’ll be releasing a self-service tool to make Bluetooth connections on your Stadia controller. Details will be shared here after release. pic.twitter.com/6vYomngfmAJanuary 13, 2023
Beginning of the end
In fast (opens in a new tab)last September, Stadia CEO Phil Harrison announced that: “While Stadia’s approach to consumer game streaming has been built on a solid technological foundation, it has not gained the user adoption we had hoped for, so we have made the difficult decision to to begin winding down our Stadia streaming service.”
The news came out of nowhere, not because Stadia was a huge success, but because Google seemed to have the money to get through its stumbling infancy years. Perhaps Google could have made Stadia a success with sheer stubbornness just like Epic did with the Epic Games Store. Instead, faced with competition such as Microsoft Xbox Cloud Gaming and Nvidia GeForce Now, Google decided to close the store.
Harrison also confirmed in the post that Google will refund “all Stadia hardware purchases made through the Google Store and all game and add-on purchases made through the Stadia Store.”
The other good news for gamers was that games like Orcs Must Die 3, which were originally exclusive to Google Stadia, made their way to other platforms, so we weren’t going to lose access to everything Stadia brought.
Best in a bad situation
While this was good news, Google wasn’t going to leave early Stadia users out of pocket, buyers would be stuck with perfectly good hardware that was no longer usable. As our Rhys Wood put it at the time, “Google has clearly put a lot of resources into the research and development of the controller for Stadia. It’s all an effort that now, unfortunately, could have been in vain.
“At first glance, the Google Stadia controller doesn’t look like much. Its silhouette resembles the Nintendo Switch Pro controller, which is a slightly thinner Xbox 360 pad. But in my hands, the Stadia controller just feels … good.
“It’s a wonderfully comfortable controller to hold. Its buttons and sticks have a high-quality feel. I love the solid collection of shortcut buttons in the center of the pad, which allows you to easily take screenshots, access the Google Assistant for voice navigation, and more.”
So it’s great news that the controller will get a new lease of life. However, I doubt Google will start supplementing the gamepad to simply sell it as a third-party controller. The device will become a strange ergonomic relic of the dangers of launching a cloud gaming service in competition with Microsoft and Sony.
Into thin air
The slight rise and sharp decline of Google Stadia is a stark reminder that we have less control over the games we buy as the video game market goes digital. It’s great that Google was able to refund everything it earned from early adopters of Stadia, but had no obligation to fix it.
Google could have just easily shut down the servers and left without doing any work to make its controller usable on other services, or working with developers to allow gamers to upload game save files from Stadia to Steam – as it did with the Gearbox game Borderlands 3.
Steam, Xbox Marketplace, PlayStation Store, Nintendo’s eShop, and Epic Games Store all look too big to shut down, but there’s no guarantee that one day these digital store owners won’t run into financial trouble and shut down their servers. On this day, you can lose access to every game you’ve purchased over the years without any of the security that comes with having a physical copy of the game. Although it must be admitted that since games rely more on online features, even a physical disc does not guarantee long-term ownership of the game.
Well, this good news about the Stadia controller really took me down a dark and bleak path. What can I say other than hug my loved ones and back up my saved files?