But the company seems as though it’s going beyond just rolling out a streaming service, which you could use on your computer or phone, to making games and hardware itself.
A recently published patent shows a game controller from Google, and although the design is from 2014 it fits nicely with the Project Stream idea. The controller connects to the internet and lets users receive and interact with notifications about their games and friends. At the press of a button, players can launch the service on any nearby screen — be it a tablet or TV — to begin or continue a game.
The controller could conceivably be the entire console, with players who don’t have a smart TV just needing to buy a Google Chromecast for lounge room gaming, but as far back as 2014 Google has also been working on an actual games console which was at one pointed codenamed “Yeti”. Whether this machine would process games locally like an Xbox or Playstation, or merely be for connecting to games servers, is unclear. But given the lack of stable, high-speed internet in many parts of the world the option to go local would make sense.
So what games would you be playing on a Google games console? For its test of Project Stream, Google used Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, from Ubisoft. If the company’s console really is based solely around streaming, the only limit on what games it could serve would be which publishers and developers wanted to jump on board. Previous Android-based game consoles stuck with mobile games from the Google Play Store, but this seems very unlikely here given the “future of gaming” claim.
It was also revealed last week that the company has, at some point, hired games industry veteran Jade Raymond as a vice president with unspecified responsibilities. Raymond previously led the creation of the original Assassin’s Creed at Ubisoft, and put together the team that made the single-player campaign for EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II. Her involvement strongly indicates an interest in creating or funding original games for Google.
The time is not quite right for an all-streaming games platform. Companies like Gaikai and OnLive have tried; both failed and were consumed by Sony, whose PlayStation Now service is functional but limited. Even Microsoft is rumoured to be making two versions of its stream-friendly Xbox; a stream-only box for people who have strong internet and don’t mind being cut off from their games during inevitable outages, and one that can still play games locally as well.
This seems like the smartest move for Google too. While building a powerful PC-like games console would be unusual for Google, it wouldn’t be any weirder than it was when it made a phone or laptop. And that traditional box could be the perfect first generation console to get Google started, before it moved to a completely cloud-powered model once the networks (and the players) are ready.