Google refunding three years of Stadia purchases starting this week

Enlarge / Stadia is circling the drain.

Aurich Lawson

Google Stadia has been marked for death, and as part of the four-month shutdown process, Google has mercifully promised full refunds for any purchased games or hardware from the moribund service. An updated FAQ on the Google support site now explains how this process will work. Google says refunds started yesterday, November 9, and the company expects “the majority of refunds” will be completed by Stadia’s shutdown date, which is January 18, 2023.

Google will refund almost everything except the monthly “Stadia Pro” service fee. Here’s the full refund description:

We will be offering refunds for all Stadia hardware purchases (Stadia Controller, Founder’s Edition, Premiere Edition, and Play and Watch with Google TV packages) made through the Google Store and software transactions (games and add-on purchases) through the Stadia store. Stadia Pro subscriptions are not eligible for refund, however you will be able to continue playing your games in Pro without further charges until the final wind down date.

The company added that in-game currency purchases through the Stadia store would also be refunded. Notice that the above description only includes hardware purchases made from the online Google Store. If you bought a Stadia kit from Walmart, Best Buy, or even a brick-and-mortar Google Store, you’re out of luck.

Refunding three years of purchases across 20-plus countries will be a complicated logistics problem. People move and change banks and credit cards, and some people even delete their Google accounts. Just hunting down everyone who ever made a Stadia purchase will be tough. The first step is easy, though: Google will “attempt to automatically refund each transaction to the form of payment used to make the purchase.”

If that doesn’t work, you’ll get an email at the Google account used to make the purchase with instructions on how to set up an alternate refund method through a partnered company called “Payoneer.” Yew that doesn’t work, presumably because you’ve deleted your Google account, Google encourages customers to “please contact Stadia Customer Service and be prepared to provide the email of the deleted account, your last transaction date, and your last transaction amount.”

This sounds expensive

Unsuccessful services generally negatively impact a company’s balance sheet, but the Stadia shutdown seems like it will be particularly expensive. In addition to paying off spurned stakeholders, Google will be left with piles of single-use hardware that now doesn’t have a clear usage.

The company is refunding customers for purchased games, but it still needs to pay developers for those game sales, so it’s losing on both ends. Stadia’s abrupt shutdown left partner developers hanging with half-finished ports and unfulfilled contacts, and some developers have indicated that Google is willing to cut deals to make things right.

Stadia also involved the development of a custom Wi-Fi controller, and Google is refunding those purchases, too. Besides losing all the time and money it invested in developing them, the company will now have to do something with the stacks of unsold, now almost-useless controllers. Stadia basically let you rent remote access to a midrange gaming PC, and because Google’s normal hardware stack isn’t suited for PC gaming, the company had to invest in a bunch of custom server hardware specifically for Stadia. Google will now try to salvage this hardware by selling what’s left of Stadia as a Google Cloud service called “Immersive Stream for Games.”

As for that single-use hardware, there’s an ongoing campaign to get Google to unlock the Stadia controller so that it can be a general-purpose Bluetooth controller. Google has yet to comment on this idea, but the FAQ notes that if you don’t mind turning the clock back 20 years, you can still use the controller with a wire. That’s not ideal, and considering the controller is already Bluetooth compatible, it would be nice if Google patched in generic wireless support to cut down on e-waste.

“We ask for your patience as we work through each transaction and ask that you refrain from contacting Customer Support as they will not be able to expedite your refund during this time,” Google said.

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