Google has begun public testing of YouTube's move into gaming, which follows years of the video platform branching out into adjacent sectors like music, TV and podcasts. The games, under the banner of "Playables", are now available to a "limited number" of YouTube users, and if you're in then you should see the new section on the homepage.
The announcement came via YouTube's "test features and experiments" page (thanks, 9to5Google), which allows Premium accounts to opt-in to testing potential new elements of the site. The Playables section was first reported on last year, when it was apparently being tested internally, and no doubt employees were given strict instructions never to utter the name Stadia.
Google's being noticeably more low-key about this latest foray into gaming. Stadia was launched with the fanfare of a traditional console in 2019, with the explicit ambition of topping the existing big players by pioneering cloud gaming. Despite the hardware arguably delivering what it promised, the concept never attracted a mass audience and in January 2023 the service was closed. Google did handle the wind-down in an exemplary manner, but deservedly or not Stadia ended up as a high-profile failure.
A clue as to what to expect on YouTube Playables can be had with Stack Bounce, from a Google company that offers "bitesize games." This game is fun but it's a casual time-waster, a puzzle game built around a simple input, simple goal, and some great feedback. You can see why Playables would orient itself to this style of game when trying to attract the addled eyes of shortform video fanatics.
YouTube's announcement says "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."
A big question about Playables is when and how it's going to open up to developers: YouTube is, after all, a platform built on content creators. It's inconceivable that Playables would be otherwise and that raises topics like monetisation, content guidelines, and app cloning.
YouTube's Playables come as Netflix, another streaming platform, starts to get much more serious about its ambitions in games, while TikTok is experimenting with games as well as various gaming-adjacent features that let streamers interact with viewers.