Over the past few months, the wildest rumors in video game industry circles haven’t involved the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Two. The most interesting chatter has centered on a tech company that’s been quietly making moves to tackle video games in a big way: Google, the conglomerate that operates our email, our internet browsers, and much more.
We haven’t heard many specifics about Google’s video game plans, but what we have heard is that it’s a three-pronged approach: 1) Some sort of streaming platform, 2) some sort of hardware, and 3) an attempt to bring game developers under the Google umbrella, whether through aggressive recruiting or even major acquisitions. That’s the word from five people who have either been briefed on Google’s plans or heard about them secondhand.
Google has been exploring video game initiatives for most of the decade. In 2014, the company was reportedly poised to acquire Twitch before Amazon swooped in. Rumors percolated for years that Google was also attempting to launch an Android-based console, similar to Amazon’s Fire TV, but that didn’t happen. In 2016, the Google-incubated studio Niantic scored one of the biggest gaming successes of the last decade with Pokémon Go, but it had spun out into an independent company the year before. And Google has a long history of hiring game developers for projects that never quite materialize.
In recent months, however, the chatter about Google has gotten louder. At the Game Developers Conference in March of this year, Google representatives met with several big video game companies to gauge interest in its streaming platform, which is code-named Yeti, sources said. (The existence of Google’s Yeti was first reported by the website The Information earlier this year.) Google also took meetings at E3 in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, those sources said, and from what we’ve heard, the company is looking not just to woo game developers to the Yeti service but to buy development studios entirely. (Google did not respond to a request for comment.)
So what is this streaming platform, exactly? Like Nvidia’s GeForce Now, the Google service would offload the work of rendering graphics to beefy computers elsewhere, allowing even the cheapest PCs to play high-end games. The biggest advantage of streaming, as opposed to physical discs or downloads, is that it removes hardware barriers for games. Games like Call of Duty can reach a significantly bigger audience if players don’t need an expensive graphics card or console to play them. As one person familiar with Yeti described it: Imagine playing The Witcher 3 within a tab on Google Chrome.
Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Or sounds too much like the promise of other streaming platforms like OnLive, which failed because of lag and video compression that reduced quality? Many of the rumors we’ve heard need to be presented with some skepticism until we actually see them in action. One pie-in-the-sky idea I’ve heard floated, for example, is heavy integration between Yeti and the Google-owned YouTube. 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.
Whispers have been quieter about Google’s hardware, whatever that may look like, but the rumors we’ve heard suggest that it will link up with the streaming service in some way. We’re not sure whether Google is looking to compete with the technical specs of the next PlayStation and Xbox or whether this Google console will be cheaper and low-end, relying on the streaming service to pull weight.
source: Gizmodo.com by Shep McAllister