YouTube expands its free games catalog ‘Playables’ to all users

YouTube is expanding its reach into the gaming world with the broader rollout of its free games catalog, dubbed “Playables.” Announced on Tuesday, this collection of lightweight, free-to-play games will soon be accessible to all users directly within the YouTube app, as well as on the YouTube Home page. Initially, these games were available only to a select group of users for testing, before being offered to YouTube Premium subscribers last November.

The Playables catalog features a mix of popular titles such as Angry Birds Showdown, Words of Wonders, Cut the Rope, Tomb of the Mask, and Trivia Crack. Additionally, it includes games like Stack Bounce, previously offered on Google’s HTML minigames service, and GameSnacks, developed by Google’s internal incubator, Area 120. GameSnacks aimed to bring gaming to users in emerging markets, particularly where Android is the dominant platform.

Currently, Google reports that there are over 75 minigames available in the Playables catalog. Users can save their progress and track their all-time best scores. Although not all users will see Playables immediately, the rollout is expected to be complete in the coming weeks.

Unlike traditional mobile games that generate revenue through paid downloads or in-app purchases, YouTube’s Playables do not monetize in these ways. This means they don’t directly compete with app stores like Apple’s, which thrive on such revenue models. 

However, they do present a new competitor for the App Store’s free games, which attract casual gamers and earn money through advertisements. With Google’s increasing focus on AI integration, questions arise about how this might affect its ad business, traditionally bolstered by sponsored links in search results. While there’s no current indication that Google plans to monetize Playables, the potential for ad placements in these games could be explored in the future.

For now, Playables serve as an engaging addition for YouTube users, offering a fun diversion between browsing and viewing sessions. This could potentially increase user engagement with the YouTube app.

YouTube isn’t alone in venturing into the gaming space. Netflix has been expanding its own game catalog through acquisitions, licensing deals, and in-house development. Meanwhile, Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, is looking to capitalize on new EU regulations to introduce its games store to European users. Unexpected players like LinkedIn are also exploring the gaming arena.

Written by Jordan Bevan


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