Last Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported that YouTube is considering adding online games that would be playable on the site and within the mobile app.
According to the report, Google employees were recently invited to try out a new product called Playables. Users can play the games from a computer’s browser window or the mobile YouTube app without having to download or install anything on the device. One of the Playables known as Stack Bounce is an arcade game in which players break layers of bricks with a bouncing ball. So it’s yet another ripoff of the classic Atari game Breakout.
I understand Google wanting to put Stadia, its failed cloud gaming service, behind it, but I can’t see any path to success for YouTube Playables. When was the last time you played a game on your browser? Not since the days of FarmVille and Mafia Wars have I even had the impulse to visit a website with the intent of playing a game online.
Injecting games into other apps, websites, or services is nothing new, but I think 3D movies have a better chance of staging a comeback. Apple shoved some games into iMessage several years ago, and I’m not sure their popularity could have even been described as a passing fad. In fact, I forgot they existed until I started writing this article.
But the real kicker is just how much competition any game on YouTube is going to have from the unlimited buffet of free games at our fingertips already. Nearly instantenously, I could switch from the YouTube app on my iPhone to anything from casual fare like Subway Surfers or Two Dots to massive RPGs like Diablo Immortal or Honkai: Star Rail. All I have to do is tap another app icon, and even I’m not so lazy that I won’t go to the trouble of tapping a button to play a game.
Unless YouTube has a killer app, I cannot see the reasoning behind even testing games, much less launching them to the public. Netflix has a selection of great mobile games that anyone with a subscription can download for free, and yet hardly anyone does.
I’d love to be proven wrong, but Playables sound dead on arrival to me.