YouTube’s free games catalog ‘Playables’ rolls out to all users

YouTube’s “app store” for games is rolling out more broadly. The company announced on Tuesday that its collection of lightweight, free games dubbed “Playables” will soon start to appear in the YouTube app for all users, in addition to the YouTube Home page. Previously, the games had been made available to select users for testing before arriving for YouTube Premium subscribers last November.

Because they don’t monetize as paid downloads or via in-app purchases, YouTube’s Playables don’t directly challenge the app store model or break Apple’s rules. However, they do compete with the App Store’s free games, which are often downloaded by casual gamers and generate revenue via ads. As the search giant is shifting its focus to integrate AI, there are questions about the technology’s impact on its ads businesses’ cash cow, driven by the sponsored links that appear above search results. Free games on YouTube, in theory, could become another place to serve ads further down the line. For now, though, Google hasn’t signaled its intention to monetize its Playables.

The games could, however, provide a distraction for YouTube users in between their browsing and viewing sessions and help keep them engaged with the YouTube app.

The lineup of Playables includes a handful of more popular titles like Angry Birds Showdown, Words of Wonders, Cut the Rope, Tomb of the Mask, and Trivia Crack, among others. It also pulls in titles like Stack Bounce, a game that Google offered on its HTML minigames service, and GameSnacks, which had been developed out of its internal incubator, Area 120. With GameSnacks, the goal was to bring gaming to users in emerging markets — a place where Android dominates.

Today, there are currently over 75 minigames in the Playables catalog, Google says. Players who use the feature will be able to save their game progress and track their all-time best scores. Not everyone will see the Playables right away, but the feature should complete its rollout in the coming weeks.

YouTube isn’t the only tech giant looking to expand into gaming. Netflix has been growing its own game catalog through acquisitions, licensing deals and in-house game development. Meanwhile, Fortnite maker Epic Games is looking to leverage new EU regulations to bring its games store to European users. Elsewhere, other unexpected companies are delving into games, too, including, most recently, LinkedIn.

These moves highlight how companies are using games to route around App Store commissions while boosting their own bottom lines. Though Netflix’s games are available on the App Store, they require a Netflix subscription — bought via its website — to access.

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