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Here’s what to expect from Google’s plans for the ‘future of gaming’

Taking a look at Google's long-running gaming plans ahead of an official reveal on March 19th

Google

For the past couple of decades, there have been three main players in the video game hardware space: Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft.

However, a fourth major technology company is gearing up to throw its hat into the ring very soon: Google.

Since early 2018, many reports have surfaced pointing to Google working on a video game streaming service and associated gaming console. Google itself has openly talked about its desire to offer a game streaming service, although the company has revealed little beyond that.

That will soon change, though. On Tuesday, March 19th at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, Google says it finally unveil its vision for “the future of gaming.”

The keynote will be livestreamed between 1pm and 2:30pm ET on YouTube.

MobileSyrup will also be at Google’s announcement bringing you all the detail directly from the show floor.

In the meantime, here’s everything we know about Google’s long-gestating gaming plans and what you can expect to see from next week’s presentation.

Project Stream

The first detailed report on Google’s game streaming plans came in February 2018 from The Information. According to The Information, Google has been working on a game streaming platform called ‘Yeti’ that would, in theory, remove hardware limitations and allow even lower-end devices to play more technically demanding experiences.

Google eventually shared some light on these plans in October 2018 with free public testing of Project Stream, a service that could stream AAA games to various laptops or desktops directly to a Chrome browser.

According to Google, Project Stream was “a technical test to solve some of the biggest challenges of streaming” designed to “push the limits with one of the most demanding applications for streaming — a blockbuster video game.”

There were some caveats, however. Only select people in the U.S. were able to participate, while the only game that was featured was Ubisoft Quebec’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Despite limited testing, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in a February earnings call that “early feedback on [the] Project Stream experience has been super positive.”

Gaming console

However, streaming isn’t the only part of the gaming industry that Google is reportedly investing in. The original report from The Information noted that Google may be working on a console on top of its streaming service.

This was later corroborated by a report from Kotaku‘s Jason Schreier, a journalist who has become well-known in the industry for frequently accurate reports about unreleased gaming products. According to Schreier, “whispers have been quieter” about Google’s hardware initiatives, although he had heard rumours that the purported console “will link up with the streaming service in some way.”

However, Schreier said he wasn’t told whether Google’s console will have higher-end specs to compete with the next-generation PlayStation and Xbox consoles or if it will be a cheaper device that’s still capable of playing some games, such as the Apple TV set-top box. The latter seems more likely, given Google’s push towards streaming to a variety of devices, especially those on the lower end of the cost spectrum.

A recently surfaced Google patent from 2014 also points to a gaming controller, although given how old the document is, it’s unclear how much it may reflect Google’s present hardware.

In any case, some sort of Google gaming hardware appears to be a given, not just due to the reports from The Information and Kotaku but also based on how the company has been promoting its GDC event.

As noted by Ars Technica, Google’s senior vice president of hardware, Rick Osterloh, has been tweeting about Google’s GDC keynote. In this position, Osterloh has overseen such Google products as the Pixel phone and Home smart speaker, so his apparent involvement in the GDC event certainly points to the reveal of some sort of gaming device.

Google’s product store — which sells hardware, not software — is also promoting the GDC event.

Game developers

In his original report, Schreier mentioned that Google has a “three-pronged approach” to gaming. The first two elements of this plan are the aforementioned streaming service and console, while the third piece of the puzzle is Google’s goal to “bring game developers under the Google umbrella.”

To that end, Schreier said Google reportedly held private meetings “with several big video game companies to gauge interest in its streaming platform” at GDC 2018 last March.

Schreier wasn’t able to confirm if Google intends to recruit new talent en masse or if it’s planning to acquire or create new studios entirely, the latter of which reflects what Microsoft has done over the past year.

That said, we do know of at least a few prominent figures in the gaming industry that have joined Google over the past year.

In January 2018, games industry veteran Phil Harrison joined Google as a vice president and general manager. Harrison had previously overseen Sony’s network of PlayStation studios for 15 years and worked at Microsoft for three years as a senior member of the Xbox team.

Last July, Google also hired Richard Marks, the former head of Sony’s PlayStation accessories division who oversaw the development of devices like the PlayStation VR and PlayStation Eye. Specifically, Marks joined Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) division, the branch that is reportedly working on the Yeti gaming platform.

Most recently, Montreal-born video game producer and executive Jade Raymond joined Google as a vice president.

Raymond has played a prominent role in the industry, particularly in Canada. At Ubisoft, she was was producer on the Canadian-made Assassin’s Creed series and founded the company’s Toronto studio in July 2009.

Raymond left Ubisoft in October 2014 and later went on to Electronic Arts, where she opened the Montreal-based EA Motive studio. Raymond left EA in October 2018 and teased in December that she was working on a “top secret project.”

With all that said, we can probably expect to see some big-name game developers at Google’s GDC keynote, in addition to the usual suspects like Osterloh.

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