The first sales pitch for Stadia, Google’s streaming service that delivers high-end video games to web browsers via the cloud, included the idea that it could work as simply as Googling your favorite game. You can search for a popular game to learn more about it, only to immediately see an option to start playing it in your web browser, no additional hardware required, and maybe no payment either.
Nearly three years after Stadia officially launched and 18 months after the service’s massive internal downgrade, that scenario has finally begun to play out. Additionally, the feature appears to be streamer-agnostic, as several Stadia-like streaming services have started showing up in search results.
Oh look, Stadia Trials are getting a slightly fancier font
This week, Google launched a limited launch of a “Play Now” tab that appears on searches for certain video games on desktop browsers. (As of press time, out of three tested Google accounts, the search results featured in this article only appear on one of them.) This tab is in the right-hand “knowledge panel” which is also automatically populated with user reviews. , game details and digital download purchase links.
When a Google game search returns a Play Now tab, it will include as many compatible streaming services as possible, including Google Stadia, Microsoft Xbox Cloud Gaming, Amazon Luna, and Nvidia GeForce Now. (My searches for many PlayStation-exclusive games on this console’s Plus Premium cloud streaming selection have so far failed.) Each entry indicates the type of charge that may be required to play the game. Conveniently enough, from Many Google Stadia games can now be played for free for the first 30 minutes or up to 120 minutes, and supported free trial Stadia games receive a bright green flash of italicized text: “trial available.” Other games and services that have appeared so far have included tags like “premium subscription” or “free-to-play”.
Some search results elevate that tab to a valuable “above the fold” location, visible without a single scroll of the mouse wheel, while others require scrolling about a full page the size of a desktop computer to find the streaming links. Once you click a service’s “play” button, Google directs you to the streaming service’s web portal to start playing right away. The action requires a connection to the respective service, which means it is not enough the “search and play immediately” scenario you might imagine, though thanks to Stadia’s use of Google Accounts, this is arguably the fastest option of the four integrated services to date.
And good news, Google has taken care to recheck all Play Now games marked “free-to-play”. No payment method is required to start playing games with the label, which so far include Fortnite, PUBG Battlegroundsand Destiny 2.