Ahead of the Google for Games Developer Summit 2022, there was buzz about a potential emulator being developed on Linux that would allow games developed for Microsoft Windows to be easily ported to Stadia. The implications of such a claim were enormous. Stadia already has a large library of games as a new platform in the cloud gaming market, with over 100 more games to be available to gamers by the end of 2022, but what would happen? if any Windows game could be imported and run on Google’s awesome cloud? technology with little friction?
Well, the Google For Games Developer Summit has come and gone, and with it, we’ve learned a bit more about its plans to port these titles to its architecture. In fact, we already knew some of his plans, and the other aspect that was revealed was much less important than everyone thought. So much so that Stadia didn’t even bother to mention it during the main keynote that day.
The announcement took the form of a Stadia session titled “How to Write a Windows Emulator for Linux from Scratch,” hosted by Marcin Undak, who is part of the Stadia Porting Platform team. In that talk, which you can watch below, he explained how he and a small team of just a few other people figured out a way to run unmodified Windows games on Stadia using something called “Binary Translation.”
Porting games from Windows to Stadia is not an easy task if done manually, especially for small developers or older games, but luckily Google provides a Stadia Porting Toolkit (to translate Windows APIs to Linux.EG DXVK for the DirectX API implementation) as well as Unity and Unreal Engine integration out of the box and AAA studios like Bethesda have found the process to be quite simple (especially since they are accustomed to creating cross-platform titles).
Now, because Stadia is built on a highly customized and specifically simplified x64 version of Linux and uses Vulkan rendering, PulseAudio and only provides a proprietary interface to manage inputs, online and a few other things, Marcin and his team have been able to use this “binary translation” method to replace the DLLs with theirs (or point to theirs internally, rather) and then directly launch the game from there. It’s a bit more complex than that, but you can watch the lecture below if you want to know the details.
Basically, it’s similar to Wine and Proton in that it allows Windows games to run on Stadia without recompilation or any other platform-specific work. That’s pretty darn cool, but from what I understand it also means that only 64-bit games can run this way, and only games that are DRM-free and don’t require any game launcher.
So, as you can see, this method of running Windows games on Stadia is still in its infancy and is only being worked on by a small team (which can sometimes be beneficial). That being said, Stadia already has two other major ways to entice Windows game developers to port their games to Stadia, and honestly, that’s really what’s worth talking about here.
First, something called “Low Change Porting” has been used in the past and continues to be an option for many Stadia games that were previously Windows titles (Cities Skylines, Overcooked, etc.). This method is designed to reduce the time and resources needed for developers to bring games to Stadia, and it will become more widely available later this year.
Studios like Hand Games, Legacy Games, Milestone Srl Nacon, Paradox Interactive, Saber Interactive, Steel Wool Studios, Team17, and Wired Productions are taking advantage of Low Change Porting, and it looks promising, especially as the number and frequency of titles Stadia releases have skyrocketed lately.
The final point I want to address that will encourage developers to bring their games to Stadia, and certainly more appealing than the experimental Linux binary translation method, is that the company is temporarily increasing its revenue distribution to be more in favor of developers.
Until 2023, developers will receive 85% of revenue from games released after October 1, 2022, with Google only receiving 15%. Once the game reaches $3 million in winnings, the split will revert to 70/30. This alone is hugely appealing to anyone looking to increase their game’s reach, and will most likely be the main catalyst for more Windows games to come to Stadia.
Beginning in the fourth quarter of this calendar year, we are launching a time-limited incentive program to adjust our revenue share for newly signed games to an 85-15 split for game sales up to a $3 million threshold. . This will apply to all games launched in the fourth quarter of this year, in 2020 and in 2023. This means that you, as a Stadia partner, will earn 85% of your title sales and Google will earn 15%. Once your title’s total sales reach a threshold of $3 million, the revenue share will revert to the current split.
– Careen Yap, Stadia Strategic Business Development
As you can clearly see, Google is taking a multifaceted approach to developing Stadia as a service and its offerings. It’s common with the tech giant – having lots of different teams working on lots of different ways to solve a problem and then cut the fat later down the road. There’s no guarantee that the Binary Translation Project will grow or evolve, but if it does, that would be incredibly cool because it’s an interesting experiment. If not, the new revenue allocation and Low Change Porting will continue to fuel the flame and help the cloud gaming platform grow into 2022 and beyond, and it’s a victory for the players!