BlueStacks started off life as an Android emulator for Windows more than 10 years ago, allowing anyone to run native Arm-based or x86 Android apps on Windows PCs and tablets. Now BlueStacks is transitioning to the cloud, bringing Android games to the browser and across iOS, Windows, macOS, Android, and Linux devices, and even inside Discord.
BlueStacks X launches today as the only cloud gaming service that offers free streaming of mobile games across multiple platforms and devices. BlueStacks has built its hybrid cloud technology under its now.gg brand to make this possible, combined with Amazon’s AWS Graviton servers. BlueStacks X also offloads part of the compute and graphics rendering to local devices thanks to advancements in modern web browsers.
The result is the ability to play a variety of Android mobile games inside a browser with no downloads necessary. BlueStacks X is launching as a beta, with around 14 games available to stream and the promise of more titles being added weekly. Games like Raid: Shadow Legends, Disney Sorcerer’s Arena, and Lords Mobile: Kingdom Wars are all available today. You can also use the regular native app to play more than 200 games that aren’t available in the cloud just yet.
BlueStacks has also created its own Discord bot, Cloudy, that will integrate into Discord servers and allow friends to launch cloud-based Android games and share their gameplay sessions with others. “We’ll also allow you to customize what games you want on your server, and if you play those games together you automatically get connected to a Discord voice channel so everyone can just click and play the cloud game,” explains BlueStacks CEO Rosen Sharma, in an interview with The Verge.
A social feed will also be integrated into Discord, so if your friend buys a gun in a game, it might appear in the Discord feed much like how PlayStation and Xbox display achievements in their social feeds. “It’s like what Venmo did to PayPal,” says Sharma. “PayPal were just sending money and Venmo made it into a social feed.”
BlueStacks is offering all of this free of charge, supported by ads. Sharma tells me that you’ll only see pre-roll ads, and not the type that will interrupt gameplay. Down the line there could be subscription offerings for its cloud-based service, too.
BlueStacks has been focused on mobile gaming since 2016, after it was clear its user base was mainly using the app to access games. “When we started, people were like ‘who’s going to use this?’” admits Sharma. “In 2016 it became all about gaming, and gaming became the predominant use case.”
The cloud infrastructure for Arm-based mobile games simply didn’t exist 10 years ago, and suitable Arm-based servers only started rolling out in 2018 to make BlueStacks X a reality. BlueStacks has been growing in popularity in recent years, and Sharma tells me it gets between 250,000 to 300,000 downloads a day. There’s even 20,000 enterprise customers using BlueStacks to access Android mobile apps.
BlueStack’s cloud launch and popularity comes just as Microsoft gets ready to bring Android apps to Windows 11. Microsoft won’t be shipping Windows 11 with its Android apps integration, despite promising it as a key new feature at an event in June.
Sharma doesn’t seem convinced by Microsoft’s Android integration in Windows, though. “There are two things Microsoft needs to figure out: is it apps and is it their way of getting Instagram, TikTok, and those things; or is it games?” says Sharma. “I don’t think it’s the same beast, and those are two completely different things.”
BlueStacks has been working with Microsoft for two years to help the company optimize its Hyper-V for Android, says Sharma, noting that the company has been very focused on the apps side. “Microsoft has always had the app problem, and in the past they used to pay people like the top developers to bring their apps, but that doesn’t really work in mobile because there’s just too many apps,” explains Sharma.
While BlueStacks is compatible with Google Play Store apps, Microsoft is partnering with Amazon, meaning developers will need to tweak their apps and games to remove key integration with Google Play Services. “My sense is any play that requires the developer to do a small amount of work or a large amount of work is a slow and long-drawn process,” says Sharma. “It’s unlikely to be successful.”
Microsoft is pushing ahead with Android apps on Windows 11, and we’ll likely see a preview of its initial work in the coming weeks. It’s still around 10 years late to the Android-apps-on-Windows party, but that might not matter if the integration is done well and performance is solid across multiple devices. That’s easier said than done, though.
Meanwhile, BlueStacks X launches in the browser today, available at x.bluestacks.com.