Google Stadia was slow in the starting blocks after its launch in 2019, to put it mildly. The beleaguered cloud gaming service promised to usher in a new era of gaming without expensive hardware, but like most too-good-to-be-true products, Stadia over-promised and under-delivered. In fact, after a year, Google changed its initial plans for the service by shutting down internal development studios in favor of third-party games.
Now it looks like Google will continue this approach with a Hail-Mary addition, but it’s one that could resuscitate the struggling cloud gaming service.
The unlikely possible saviour? Windows games.
Google, it seems, is building its own emulator to bring Windows games to its Linux-based cloud service and wants to teach third-party developers how to do the same. We can thanks to Reddit user marvolonewt FYI, who found it in a description of a scheduled session at the Google for Games Developer Summit on March 15. The session will describe the technologies that enable developers to run “unmodified” Windows games on Stadia. It will also teach developers how to “write a Windows emulator for Linux from scratch.”
Marcin Undak from Google Stadia’s porting platform team will lead the 25-minute session. Here are the details:
How to write a Windows emulator for Linux from scratch?
Detailed overview of the technology behind Google’s solution to run unmodified Windows games on Stadia. This is an in-depth technical overview of some of the basic concepts with the aim of enabling curious programmers to better understand these technologies and possibly create their own.
It looks like Google has built its own emulator for Linux to help developers port their Windows games to Stadia. However, the mention of helping developers create their own version raises doubts about the effectiveness of Google’s solution. Google probably refers to an “emulator” in terms of a compatibility layer for running Windows apps without emulating them. It could be similar to what Valve did with Steam Deck, a Linux-based handheld console that runs Windows games through a compatibility layer called Proton. If others follow the lead of Google and Valve, Linux would be on its way to becoming the next big PC gaming platform.
As things stand, developers whose games run on Windows have to do the heavy lifting to optimize them for Stadia. Without any easy compatibility, Stadia is an ambitious gaming platform without enough games. Google has struck deals with third-party studios to flesh out its library, but many recent high-profile titles are still missing.
Google plans to open its summit with a Stadia keynote, so we should hear more about where the platform is headed in a few days and if it’s really deprioritized, as suggested recent report.