If recent reports are to be believed, YouTube is preparing for its next push into the lucrative world of on-the-go gaming. According to The Wall Street Journal, the leading video platform is testing a product called Playables, which would offer a selection of games that can be played directly through YouTube.
The WSJ report cites “an email sent to employees at [YouTube] parent company Google,” which invited workers to take Playables for a spin. The new product would be available on both the mobile and desktop versions of YouTube. WSJ only mentioned one specific title that is part of the current Playables test: Stack Bounce, a typical brick-breaking game.
Stack Bounce may not seem like much, but casual gaming is a relatively untapped market for YouTube and its ilk, especially in the West. Phone-based games like Garena Free Fire and PUBG Mobile rank among the most-played titles in Asia. In hopes of serving that massive audience, online video hubs have experimented with in-platform gaming. Netflix has launched games that tie into its most popular properties, while TikTok’s video game destination serves the viewers who say “TikTok made me play it.”
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Based on prevailing industry trends, YouTube would be wise to open up its own gaming service. For now, the Google-owned platform is keeping its plans under wraps. “Gaming has long been a focus at YouTube,” a company spokesperson told the WSJ. “We’re always experimenting with new features, but have nothing to announce right now.”
Playables would tie into the Google Play store, where Android users purchase and download games for their devices. YouTube has its own history in mobile play: Gaming has long been one of its marquee categories, and many of its stars have expanded their brands by releasing games inspired by their videos.
But other Google forays into gaming have proven less successful. In 2021, the tech giant shut down Stadia, which it had used to ally itself with game creators.
In the gaming world, Google and YouTube have positioned themselves as tech companies rather than developers. However, current trends may lead to shifting priorities in San Bruno. The WSJ report suggests that Neal Mohan, YouTube’s current chief, may be interested in expanding in-platform gaming as a way of counteracting ongoing difficulties in the video hosting business. But for now, Playables is still in the testing phase, and there’s no clear launch date attached to it.