Google is working on making cloud games easier to find on its search page. The company hasn’t officially announced the feature publicly, but Ars Technica and The Verge have confirmed that the new Play Now ability showed up for them in separate instances.
Play Now essentially adds cloud gaming links to the landing page for the game you’re searching for so that you can instantly hop in from the Google Search page. Clicking the Stadia option should just boot the game up, while links for other services will take you to their own webpages. It seems the feature has just started rolling out, so don’t fret if you don’t see it pop up yet. It showed up for Gizmodo’s deputy editor of consumer tech, Michelle Ehrhardt, but only for Destiny 2. Sorry to my editor, who now has an active Stadia account.
I reached out to Google for more information on the Play Now ability and to confirm whether it’s live. I will update when I hear back.
If you have the ability, the Play Now tab appears on desktop browser searches for certain video games. I tried the ability twice on two different Google accounts—both times logged into my main Stadia account—and nothing appeared. But Ars Technica has more screenshots that show what it looks like when the Play Now feature is available.
The screenshots show the main Google page with a popular game typed into the search bar. Ars tried typing in games like Destiny 2, Control, and Fortnite. If it’s on streaming, the Play now column will sprout up on the right-hand side, underneath the main title card. If the game is available to play on competing cloud platforms, like Amazon Luna or Nvidia GeForce Now, you’ll see a Play shortcut for those sites, too.
Even if you don’t have the Play Now tab in your search results, querying Google for a game will usually bring up a streaming link on the first page. Usually, a Stadia link shows up, often mixed in with links of where to buy the game outright.
The new Play Now capability might be the proof some users need that Stadia isn’t going away, despite what the blogs—including my blog—have foretold. I’m of the thought that Stadia is going to end up like Google’s other pet projects, which often get rolled up into something greater. It’s not hard to imagine that this plan to instantly launch games is an offshoot of Google’s other instant play ventures—remember the ability to stream Batman: Arkham Knight
for AT&T customers earlier this year? (Now it’s Control.) Who needs the Stadia branding when it’s the web browser helping facilitate all that?
The idea of being able to quickly jump into a game hosted up in the cloud has clearly taken off—there are so many more choices than there were a mere two years ago. But for Google, it seems the goal is to hone in on the technology so that it becomes a significant part of its most influential real estate on the web: its search engine.