Google's ill-fated gaming service Stadia is slated to be turned off before the end of January. While Google never used the Bluetooth functionality in the controllers, claiming WIFI was better, they are enabling it at the end to give the controllers some utility once the streaming side of the whole deal goes away.
Google is also refunding any games people may have purchased, so I guess this experiment just hurt Google.
Having the controller live a second life is one of the last things people were asking for from Stadia's shutdown. As a Stadia product, the controller took the unique approach of connecting directly to the Internet over Wi-Fi, rather than the usual route of connecting to whatever device you're playing from and then to the Internet. Supposedly, this was a way to shave a few milliseconds off the lag inherent in game streaming. Nothing else in the world uses a Wi-Fi video game controller, so once the Stadia servers shut down, the controller was going to turn into e-waste. It was technically useable as a generic controller if you plugged it into a computer via USB, but nobody wants a wired controller anymore.
Google's product listing was always upfront about the controller having a Bluetooth chip in it, though it noted that "no Bluetooth Classic functionality is enabled at this time." All the parts are there to save the controller from the trash heap, and now Google is promising a firmware update to do just that.
In our Stadia review, Ars' Senior Gaming Editor Kyle Orland called the controller "one of the highlights of the Stadia launch package," saying it "boasts a solid, well-balanced weight; comfortable, clicky face buttons and analog sticks; quality ergonomic design on the d-pad and shoulder triggers; and strong, distinct rumble motors." Stadia sales were far below expectations, and these controllers have been piling up in warehouses for years—all Stadia controllers show the date of manufacture on the back, and all known models were made in 2019 during the initial manufacturing run. The controllers were originally pulled from stores after the shutdown announcement, but now that they are getting a second lease on life, we'll be looking for a fire sale.