First Microsoft and Amazon conspired to make Android on Windows happen, and now Google’s staking its own claim. Starting today, some US Windows users can try a beta of Google Play Games on their desktop.
As of this writing, there were just over 60 games available to me in the Windows Play Games store, from a US location. All of them are free downloads because they’re the kind of games that make money on in-app purchases. It’s a mix of games that resemble or sound like better-known games, relaxed building/designing games, gacha bait, and then Genshin Impact. The selection is likely to expand, but the nature of Android’s free-to-play environment isn’t due to change any time soon.
If one of these games has already gotten its hooks into you, you can sync up your progress, achievements, friends, and other Google Play stats between your phone and Windows.
I don’t have a Play game in my recent roster, so I picked out Zombeast: Zombie Shooter from the library and installed it for a test drive. The game is what it says on the label; you plod forward through linear walkways, moving left and right occasionally, clicking to shoot when your auto-target lands on the right zombie or strangely placed gas can.
Knowing I was playing on Windows, Zombeast loaded with a tutorial for the keyboard controls. Everything worked as expected, and the game played responsively. But it’s jarring to play a shooter, even an on-rails shooter like this, on a PC and be so limited. You can’t look with the mouse, you can barely move in any direction but forward, and you only use the primary button on the mouse. I played a couple levels, was notified that I would get a free golden revolver upgrade that would otherwise cost $1.99, then jumped out.
I wrote that Play Games was available for “some” users up top because not just any system can get access to Google Play on Windows. You’ll need Windows 10 or 11, a solid-state drive with 10GB of space, at least an Intel UHD Graphics 630 or comparable graphics card, a processor with at least four cores, 8GB RAM, and a Windows administrator account. You’ll also have to turn on hardware virtualization in your BIOS settings, and allow Google Play to enable specific Windows hypervisor settings.
It’s interesting timing for Google to launch a US beta of its Play Store for Windows. Microsoft recently launched a similarly limited trial of Amazon Appstore apps that utilize its Android subsystem for Windows, built on top of the Subsystem for Linux. Amazon’s Appstore isn’t licensed by Google and doesn’t have the same APIs available to it as an Android device would offer, though Amazon and Microsoft can likely replicate some or even most of those. Meanwhile, Google is offering this fully integrated and synced app, starting with just a limited number of games that provide good desktop (perhaps Chromebook) support.
Listing image by Google / Kevin Purdy