Google has its hands in a lot of cookie jars, everything from online search (its bread and butter) and email, to productivity software and entertainment. It is quite the extensive list, but about gaming? There’s Android, but Google is not really directly involved in gaming. That could change if and when its rumored ‘Yeti’ project comes to fruition. Yet, in case you are not familiar, is Google’s attempt to capture a piece of the gaming market by way of streaming, and the most recent chatter suggests the company is making some major moves that would put it in contention with the PlayStation and Xbox ecosystems.
That sounds a bit ambitious, and indeed it is, so we are taking everything with several grains of salt (clogged arteries be damned). Nevertheless, what’s being said is that Google is focusing on three areas, the first and presumably the most important of which is a streaming platform. It is a bold strategy, though given Google’s online DNA, it’s perhaps a logical path versus trying to build a game console to compete with the next generation PlayStation and Xbox.
We don’t know if it will ultimately work out, though with GameStop struggling and in talks with suitors for a buyout, there could be a significant shift in the gaming landscape and specifically the prominence of physical media. That’s a deeper discussion for another day.
The second area of focus is on hardware. There are no concrete details to go on, and no indication of whether Google is looking build a powerful console to truly rival Sony and Microsoft, or a lower power device that would mostly (or entirely) serve as a hub for its streaming service. The latter seems more likely to us, but it’s not a foregone conclusion. Why?
Well, the third part of Google’s strategy is to convince developers to support its platform. The company is also reportedly willing to buy out development studios and then pivot their focus to its own service. It’s said Google is being aggressive in its pitches to developers, and certainly acquiring studios would be an aggressive move as well.
So that is what Google is up to in the gaming space. There are a bunch of different directions things could go. Earlier this year, it was reported that Google’s gaming service could even use its Chromecast hardware. That is a bit underwhelming in our opinion, and if Google is truly making a big push into the gaming market, we suspect it has something else up its sleeve.
There are some obvious challenges to overcome, in particular latency. That has been the bane of streaming solutions to date. The idea behind a streaming ecosystem is that the hardware in the cloud does the heavy lifting, which means the receiving hardware doesn’t have to be super powerful. Lag presents a problem though, which is one of the reasons why dedicated game consoles (and PCs) remain the standard. The same goes for the quality of graphics once you factor in compression schemes.
Google is perhaps uniquely positioned to solve those issues. What’s also interested is that some people who claim to be privy to Yeti claim it might tap into Google’s YouTube service in some way. Specifically, a user might be able to play a game while loading up a YouTube video in the corner that shows a walkthrough of a particular area.
We’ll see what comes of this. One last thing to note, though, is that Google hired Phil Harrison in January of this year. In case you’re not familiar, Harrison is an experienced game executive who previously worked at both Sony and Microsoft in high level roles on the development of PlayStation and Xbox hardware.