YouTube’s New “Playables” Is What Google Stadia Should Have Been

Stadia and YouTube Gaming

This week, 9to5google reported that YouTube were testing an upcoming feature for their video-hosting site currently titled, “Playables.” Citing YouTube’s updated document that shares the test features the platform is currently working on, the key snippet that outlines “Playables” reads as follows:

“[September 5, 2023] Testing “Playables” on YouTube: We’re starting to test a new experience on YouTube called “Playables”. Playables are games that can be played directly on YouTube on both desktop and mobile devices. If you’re part of this experiment, you’ll see a section on YouTube called “Playables” that will appear alongside other content on the home feed. We’re testing this with a limited number of users to start.  You can view and control your Playables history and saved game progress in YouTube History.”

It’s interesting to see Google take another shot at gaming, with their last attempt within the medium resulting in quite the failure as their cloud-gaming service, Google Stadia, shut down earlier this year. It seems, however, that “Playables” might be geared differently than Stadia. Though not much is yet known of how the feature will be implemented, or what type of games will be on offer, my guess is that “Playables” will start off much like how Netflix initially did with their gaming venture; featuring simple mobile games that attract the more casual subset of gamers. The feature is going to be available to a select few users for the testing period, and will be shown (I’m assuming) as an icon on their home page. Going by the verbiage, it seems Google will allow users to play and save their games all within the app, without the need to download the game directly to their device; which is what Netflix currently require you to do—although they themselves are also working on transitioning their games over to the cloud, much like their films and TV shows.

Google Stadia
At least the controller was pretty nice. Credit: Google

Attaching a gaming tier to YouTube seems like an obvious fit, and probably what Google should have done with Stadia to begin with. The platform has for over a decade survived on the content of gaming channels, and the number of people interested in watching and interacting with gaming related content is ever-growing; so giving said audience a handful of bite-sized games to play in between their viewings of Let’s Plays and video essays has the potential to be quite the success. Add in a way to monetize each playthrough via ads or a YouTube Premium membership (which I’m sure Google will undoubtedly have no issues figuring out, likely even egregiously so), and you already have yourself something that’s more successful than Stadia.    

It’s interesting to see cloud-gaming becoming more and more omnipresent within the industry. Though concerns of game preservation and the loss of owning ones media are conversations we absolutely need to have, there’s no questioning the convenience of being able to fire up your favourite game at any moment, on any device of your choosing. We’ll have to wait and see what games will be coming to the “Playables” feature, but my hope is that we get at least a couple titles that are more than just C-tier mobile games. If Google can partner up with large publishers, create their version of a controller accessory like the Backbone, and create a seamless experience via the cloud, then they will be yet another viable competitor in the cloud-gaming market.     

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