The smartphone wars were won by apps. That’s why we’re all using Android and iOS phones rather than Palm and BlackBerry. The number of apps on those platforms doesn’t matter as much these days — it’s more than enough. Now, some of Android’s enormous app catalog is destined for Windows. Microsoft has its Android framework in Windows 11, but Google is not going to be outdone. It’s launching an early beta of Google Play Games, which will bring mobile games to Windows PCs… eventually. So far, only a few regions have access to the beta.
Microsoft’s Windows Subsystem for Android will let users install the Android software of their choice, including both apps and games. It is partnering with Amazon to provide an app store, but that means most content won’t be available. Google’s Play Store has a much greater selection, but even Google’s solution won’t deliver all the Android apps you’ve come to expect—as the name implies, Google Play Games on Windows will only offer games.
This makes sense in some respects. Games scale better to larger displays, and most apps are just conduits to services that exist on the web. Plus, mobile games often include in-app purchases that print money for the developers (and Google). “We’re excited to announce that some of the most popular mobile games in the world will be available at launch, including Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, Summoners War, State of Survival: The Joker Collaboration, and Three Kingdoms Tactics,” Google said.
I should point out that all of those games are free-to-play with in-app purchases of $100 or more. Google would get a piece of all those transactions in Google Play Games, but not if people get their content from the Amazon Appstore in Windows 11. Google’s sudden desire to get Android games on Windows is almost certainly a direct response to the Microsoft announcement.
If you just can’t wait to pay $99.99 for virtual gems, you can join the Google Play Games beta today in South Korea, Taiwan, or Hong Kong. If you’re not in those locales, you’ll have to wait to get access to the service. Google stresses that Google Play Games for Windows will be a local app, emulating the apps on your machine rather than streaming them from the cloud. That means someone might find a way to get the app working in other regions, but at this time, a VPN is not enough to make Google think you’re in a supported region. Google says the final version of Google Play Games will roll out to Windows 10 and 11 later this year. In the meantime, there’s always Chrome OS, which has full access to the Play Store.