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Google hints at Windows games running on Stadia

Google hints at Windows games running on Stadia


Google might be using something like Proton

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A press shot of the Stadia controller on a white background
Image: Google

Google appears to have built its own solution for running Windows games on Stadia. Google is planning to detail its Windows “emulator” for Linux next week at the company’s Google for Games Developer Summit on March 15th. Reddit users have spotted a session at the summit that will detail “how to write a Windows emulator for Linux from scratch.”

The session will be led by Marcin Undak, on Google’s Stadia porting platform team, and promises a “detailed overview of the technology behind Google’s solution for running unmodified Windows games on Stadia.” It appears that Google has built its own Windows emulator for Linux to help developers port games to the service without having to modify titles for Linux.

Google Stadia Controller
Stadia might be able to run Windows games soon.
Image: Google

If the emulator runs live on Stadia instead of just testing environments, this could open the door to a lot more games making their way to Stadia in the future. When Google first unveiled Stadia three years ago, the server hardware powering the service all ran on Linux. That meant game developers had to port their games to Stadia. Google partnered with Unreal and Unity and even middleware companies like Havok, but there was still some lifting involved for developers to get games onto Stadia.

It now seems that Google has built a solution to remove that work and allow Windows games to run unmodified. Google mentions an emulator here, but it’s more likely that the company has instead built a compatibility layer capable of running Windows applications without having to directly emulate them and run into performance issues.

The Steam Deck also runs Windows games.
The Steam Deck also runs Windows games.
Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Valve has created its own Proton compatibility layer that allows Windows games to run on Linux by using a modified version of Wine. Proton now helps power the Steam Deck experience by mapping Microsoft’s Direct3D graphics APIs to Vulkan. Google’s deep dive will include technical details on its technology and how programmers can build their own emulator.

Google might not be alone in bringing unmodified Windows games to a game streaming service. Amazon’s Luna game streaming service is currently powered by Windows, but the company has been trying to hire developers with experience in working with Proton.

Google’s plans aren’t super clear right now, but we’ll learn more about what it’s doing with Windows games on Stadia next week. The Google for Games Developer Summit kicks off on March 15th, so stay tuned to The Verge for more coverage.