It took longer than skeptics might’ve guessed, but Google Stadia is finally shutting down. On January 18, 2023, anyone who bought games on the streaming service will lose access to their library. To compensate people who invested in the ecosystem, Google will be giving Stadia users a full refund—quite an unprecedented move.
If you bought a game on Stadia at any point since its launch, you might have questions. Here’s how it’s all going to play out.
Why Is Google Giving Refunds?
Google has a reputation for killing products. But it doesn’t always leave users completely stranded. When Google “killed” YouTube Originals, it simply stopped producing new original content, but the old content is still there. Google is “killing” Hangouts, but users are being migrated to Google Chat. In many cases, people who used Google products that die often get migrated to something new.
Stadia is different. Stadia cost money, sometimes a lot of money. The kit that included a Chromecast Ultra and a Stadia controller cost $130. Users had to pay full price for games. There was a premium subscription for 4K streaming (which also came with a collection of games over time). It’s possible to have spent a significant amount of money on Stadia over the past three years.
Shutting down the service means taking away access to all those bought-and-paid-for games, which would go a touch beyond Google’s usual shutdown routine. It’s rare to see a company offer full refunds for years worth of purchases on a platform—Microsoft paying users for ebook purchases is the closest that comes to mind—but it’s not hard to imagine the outrage (and possible lawsuits) if Google did otherwise here.
What Will Be Refunded?
There are three big categories of services Stadia has charged for: hardware, game sales plus add-ons, and the Stadia Pro subscription. Only the first two will be eligible for refunds. Even then, only sales made through the Google Store or Stadia Store will qualify.
The Stadia Pro subscription included a rotation of free games that you could claim (similar to Xbox and PlayStation game subscription services), but these titles won’t count toward refunds. If you paid for a game in the Stadia Store—as well as any downloadable content or add-on bundles—then those will qualify.
What If I Bought Stadia Hardware in a Store?
If you bought a Stadia controller or Stadia kit at a retail store like Best Buy, unfortunately, you’re out of luck. Google will be offering refunds only for purchases made through the Google Store. There are two physical Google Stores in New York, so if you bought Stadia controllers there, you may qualify for a refund, but every other store will not.
You also can’t return your hardware to any physical store (including the physical Google Store locations); however, there’s also no reason to take any hardware to a physical store.
Do I Need to Return My Controllers?
Nope! You’ll get a refund on all the hardware you paid for, and you’ll get to keep the hardware. Well, probably. Google says that “most hardware purchases” will qualify for a refund, and specifically calls out the following packages:
- Stadia Controller
- Founders Edition
- Premiere Edition
- Play and Watch with Google TV
If you bought these kits, you’re safe. If you bought Stadia hardware some other way (again, via the Google Store), you may get a refund.
When and How Do I Get My Refund?
So far, we don’t know how refunds will roll out. Google is still working this process out, though the company may have its hands full letting developers know it has pulled the plug at the moment. We’ll update this article once Google provides more information on how to get the refund.
Google says its intent is to have “the majority” of refunds sent out by January 18, 2023 (the day Stadia shuts down). That may mean getting refunds sooner—a nice boost before the holiday season if nothing else—but the process and timing may vary by country.
Can I Keep Using Stadia in the Meantime?
Yes. The games you’ve purchased will continue working until January 18. If you were already a Stadia Pro subscriber as of September 29, you’ll stay a subscriber until the service shuts down and Google won’t charge for the subscription any further. This is a bittersweet bonus, but at least you won’t have to give Google any more money for a dying service.
However, if you didn’t buy any games or pay for the subscription, then the only way to use Stadia now is with time-limited demos. Despite teasing this feature back in 2019, Google launched playable in-browser game demos only in October of 2021, and they seem to still be working for now.