Currently, Google is beta testing Google Play Games for PC, an application for playing Android games on your computer. Announced at The Game Awards last year, it’s available to try in Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan, and will likely be available in other countries soon. While I’m tentatively excited to see what this app brings to the table, I also have to ask the obvious question: what will this app do that Bluestacks doesn’t already?
Bluestacks has been around for over a decade, giving Android users a way to access over 2 million games on a PC (or Intel Macs). Bluestacks claims that it has nearly 150 million users and hosted 6 billion computer gaming sessions in 2020, so obviously there is a healthy market for Android games on PC. You simply log into your Play Store account and use your keyboard and mouse to dive into the mobile action.
I decided to test out some of the best Android games using Bluestacks 5 and Bluestacks X in anticipation of Google launching its own Android emulator. And the mixed experience has me wondering how well Google will handle it on an unknown OS.
I booted my partner’s PC – a prebuilt NZXT with Ryzen 7 and GeForce RTX 2070 Super – assuming that if it could handle Baldur’s Gate 3 and Horizon: Zero Dawn on high graphics, it could easily run Call of Duty : Movable. Instead, he could barely handle Crossy Road!
Bluestacks can only use one CPU core unless you enter your BIOS and enable virtualization, which is safe if done correctly but rather daunting. Without realizing the problem, I spent a hellish 20 minutes watching Call of Duty loading and downloading files, only to crash before I could fire a single shot. Crossy Road worked, but with a constant stutter. And that set the tone for my other Android experiments until I dive into the BIOS.
Another weird quirk with Bluestacks is with its emulator. When you open a game, you need to sign in to your Play Store account, asking for 2FA verification and a warning that your account was used on a OnePlus 3T or another random Android phone. When I left frozen Call of Duty and tried another game, I had to go through the same 2FA process and got a OnePlus 5 connection warning. Not exactly convenient.
My Bluestacks 5 experience has become less difficult over time, but I much preferred Bluestacks X, the new cloud-based service that runs Android games through your Navigator without downloading any files. It gave me flashbacks to my days playing flash games on Kongregate, but with much better graphics. Unfortunately, you’ll only find a limited number of cloud-enabled games, none of which are particularly popular.
Bluestacks 5 has pretty much every Android game you’d ever want to play, as long as you’re ready to handle downloads and updates. You can customize your controls to work with WASD and a mouse – a necessity for free-motion gaming or anywhere you regularly tap with two thumbs simultaneously. This works best for games with Bluetooth controller support or games with simpler control schemes, but you can customize the controls to make any game work.
Bluestacks doesn’t have the native processing power of the official Android program on Windows 11, nor the popular brand of Google Play Games, but it offers a huge library of games and a dedicated team that has been working on them for a decade.
On that note, here are the questions I have about Google’s new service:
- We know that Google Play Games will sync your saved files and achievements between your phone and PC. But how many games will actually be supported? Will Google bring the full power of the Play Store, including Play Pass games for subscribers? Or just a very specific number of PC-optimized games?
- What type of emulator will Google use and how well will it perform compared to Bluestacks? Will it require virtualization or will it use a compiler like Intel Bridge? And what kind of minimum PC requirements will gamers need, whether for casual games or premium games? Is an old laptop enough or do you need a real gaming device?
- What type of user threshold does Google consider a success? Given how often Google kills or mothballs its own projects (cough Stadiums cough), it’s fair to wonder whether or not PC users should tie themselves to the service.
- It’s more hypothetical, but why the hell didn’t Google support cloud gaming as an option? Even though Stadia is now called Google Stream and bought from third parties, that doesn’t mean it can’t use its own technology so gamers can play Android games without having to download them, even if it does. is just like a test. to see if they like it. If Bluestacks can do it, why not Google?
Depending on the answers to these questions, Google’s new PC gaming service could be a surprising success or an unsurprising failure. In a perfect world, this will allow gamers to play graphically demanding titles that their budget Android phones can’t handle while giving people bigger screens for popular shooters and battle royales. This could allow gamers to sneak in game time in the middle of their workday when Steam’s opening would be too much.
Am I really freaking out over another Google play service? Yes, because I’m a sucker for punishment.
In a more realistic world, Google might not put in the effort to optimize enough big-name games to make the service immediately appealing. PC gamers will stick with their usual storefronts, and Google will shrug it off and move on, abandoning a core of gamers who found it promising.
I root for the first and dread the second. But at least if Google Play Games for PC doesn’t work, I can hope Bluestacks X keeps adding games until it hits some of my favorites, and Chrome can become my new way to play games. Android instead.
We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn more.