Friction is the mind-killer when it comes to cloud gaming. You can’t just click a game trailer to instantly be playing a game quite yet. But this week, Google appears to be rolling out a feature that could reduce that friction: if you simply search for the name of a game in Google search, you might be presented with a “Play” button that can instantly launch the title.
The Nerf Report’s Bryant Chappel appears to be the one who noticed the change, and he quickly discovered it’s not limited to Google’s own Stadia cloud gaming service, either. He says it works with Amazon Luna, Xbox Cloud Gaming, and Nvidia’s GeForce Now, too.
There’s still friction — you need to be logged into an account that’s associated with these cloud gaming services or else you’ll just get a signup page, and there may still be intermediate prompts. Also, it doesn’t appear to work with all games.
But with Stadia and Xbox Cloud Gaming, at least, a single click from a Google search result will take you just as far as you get by navigating to the website of your favorite cloud gaming service, picking your title, and pressing the play button you’d find there.
It’s not clear when or if Google will fully roll out this feature. We initially saw it live this afternoon, but suddenly it was gone and doesn’t appear in our search results anymore. Then it came back for me, but only for my Google Workspace account, which isn’t associated with any cloud gaming services and can’t play Google Stadia at all. Chappel confirms to The Verge that he’s still seeing it working from his home in Austin, Texas. 9to5Google saw it as well.
My guess is that Google is running an A / B test with this feature to see how people react. Or maybe it jumped the gun, not unlike GeForce Now in 2020, by rolling it out without the permission of game studios.
Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.