While long-time tech observers were basically waiting for Google’s Stadia game streaming to die the minute it was announced, there’s no denying that the low-latency tech was cool. And, according to a recent report, Google isn’t abandoning it… or at least the company isn’t ready to let go of its games-in-the-browser ambitions altogether. According to a leaked internal email, YouTube is testing a game system that will let users play directly in the browser and on the YouTube mobile app.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the “YouTube Playables” setup is in its infancy at the moment, with Google employees only able to play the popular casual game Stack Bounce in the interface. Stack Bounce is so simple that it can already be played in the browser, so it’s not clear whether the test is actually using the Stadia streaming technology or simply serving up the game within the YouTube interface.
Either scenario would make sense. For streaming games, Google essentially abandoned the growing segment to rivals like Microsoft, Nvidia, and Amazon when it shut down Stadia at the beginning of the year (though it’s yet to be seen if Xbox cloud streaming, GeForce Now, and Luna can hang in for the long haul). On top of that, the WSJ reports that Google is looking to expand engagement as advertising revenues decline, following in the steps of Netflix acquiring several games for its streaming platform.
Games are a natural fit for YouTube, even if Google has yet to fully monetize that connection. Many of the biggest and most lucrative channels are all about games and game streaming, making YouTube and Twitch natural rivals (no coincidence that the latter was bought by Amazon almost a decade ago). But an attempt at a dedicated portal called “YouTube Gaming” was abandoned in 2018 and many of the deep integrations between Stadia and YouTube shown off in the former’s debut never materialized.
Can Google entice gamers to play directly in YouTube? We’ll have to wait and see. As with so many internal Google projects, it’s possible this one will never make it past the testing phase.