According to rumors earlier this year, Google is developing a subscription game streaming service that involves a hardware console. A new report today confirms that the effort is underway and provides more details, especially on the content side.
Kotaku today reiterates that the project involves a streaming platform to offer games from the cloud without presumably having to download large files in the tens of gigabytes, as well as hardware. Google excels on the former, with data centers located around the world and expertise in serving a significant amount of content every day to users.
Still codenamed Yeti, one source in the report described the Google project as “Imagine playing The Witcher 3 within a tab on Google Chrome.”
Kotaku has also heard of possible “heavy” YouTube integration being an aspect to the service, with Google leveraging the video site’s corpus of gaming-related content.
Imagine you’re playing a game and you run into a tricky boss or don’t know how to solve a puzzle. Instead of opening up your laptop or checking your phone for a guide, you could press a button to activate an overlay on your screen that cues up a YouTube walkthrough of the game you’re playing.
On the hardware front, The Information earlier this year noted several iterations, including a Chromecast, for the service. There are no new details about the hardware today, but a puck streaming device would be highly affordable and compete with Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation streaming services that still predominately require $200+ consoles.
The most investing aspect of today’s report are the details about Google’s content push. At both the Game Developers Conference in March and E3 earlier this month, Google has been in talks with “several big video game companies to gauge interest in its streaming platform.”
The company’s commitment for this project could extend to buying game development studios outright to create content for the platform. In fact, Google has hired top game developers and marketers from EA, PlayStation, and other similar firms recently. This is on top of hiring Microsoft and Sony gaming veteran Phil Harrison in January.
Google’s interest in “traditional” console-based gaming is interesting in light of new technologies like virtual and augmented reality. With the former, Google has Daydream on mobile phones and standalone headsets. AR will only improve over time as headsets become available. But in the short term, Google is powering mobile experiences by turning Google Maps into a platform that allows for more Pokemon Go-like experiences.
The traditional space still has a lot of revenue up for grabs, with the Nintendo Switch and Fornite injecting vigor into the space as of late. Meanwhile, there will always be an audience of pro-gamers.
Regardless, gaming would open another area for Google and Microsoft to compete on, while Sony of course uses Android and creates Assistant devices. As the two transition into their cloud streaming services, there is no real winner yet, and it is fair game for Google to try and compete.
However, the question is what audience Google wants. Can Google make a streaming service simple enough that casual phone games would be interested in stepping up, while it’s questionable whether an upstart can attract serious gamers.
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