Google's Gaming Love Affair - From Niantic To Stadia To Search To Playables

Google is still trying to find its footing in gaming. This time, experiments are happening on YouTube, as it tries to move past the stigma of being just a video-hosting platform.

The company recently invited employees to begin testing a new YouTube product called Playables. It gives users access to games on mobile devices or desktop computers, The Wall Street Journal first reported.

The games that reportedly are available for testing include Stack Bounce, an arcade game in which players attempt to smash layers of bricks with a bouncing ball.

Users would have access to play the games instantly on the YouTube site in web browsers, or the YouTube app through devices running Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS mobile systems.

“Gaming has long been a focus at YouTube,” a company spokesman said in a statement. “We’re always experimenting with new features.”

The company has experimented with gaming features for more than a decade. In 2010, Google and Nintendo developed a video game for the Wii console that had players battling it out to produce top search engine results.

In 2016, the company launched an Indie Games Festival to attract indie game developers.

In 2019, the company entered the hardware market, announcing the move at its Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. That year, Google also said it would allow ads for games to stream in Android search results, enabling users to take them for a spin before choosing whether to download -- and sometimes buy -- them.

Google created Niantic in 2010, then spun off the company in 2015, when it restructured to become Alphabet. 

Niantic was started in San Francisco by the co-creator of Google Earth as a separate division. Niantic developed Ingress, an augmented reality (AR) mobile game for Android and iOS devices. 

Then in 2019, Google developed cloud gaming service Stadia on the same network as search. Google CEO Sundar Pichai introduced Stadia at the company’s Game Developers Conference in March of that year. The network consisted of fiber-optic links and subsea cables between hundreds of points of presence and more than 7,500 edge node locations worldwide at the time. Google shut down the gaming platform in January 2023.

A year earlier, 2022, Google provided access to gaming in search results after executives searched for a way to integrate the ability to search for a video game and launch them in the web browser. From that test, the company’s Stadia streaming service for gaming launched with the limited availability of a Google "Play now" button appearing in searches for select video games on desktop browsers. The tab dropped into the right-hand "knowledge panel" that typically is reserved for user reviews, game details, and digital download purchase links.

It became all about the game in July 2010, when people began to wonder what a Google gaming platform might look like.

At the time, Google executives dreamed of a social gaming platform that would interoperate with Google TV, competing with Nintendo's Wii, Microsoft's Xbox -- and yes, even partner Sony. Google Talk, Google Chat, and Google Gmail could be tied in for a complete package.

A social gaming platform that inter-operates with Google TV would compete with Nintendo's Wii, Microsoft's Xbox -- and, yes, even partner Sony.




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