Google has been making the rounds on Reddit recently as outlets have started reporting about its presence at GDC2019. While Google has been part of GDC before, this year will be different, and they are holding their own keynote to unveil their venture into gaming. News outlets have been receiving emails with the title “Gather around” followed by a video which features a dark hallway leading into the light. This is accompanied by the words “all will be revealed”. So, why is this a big deal? There are various reasons to get excited and we are going to explore a few of them here.
It is no secret that Google has been investing in gaming and looking to penetrate the ever growing market. But what they have been working on has been a mystery. GDC 2019 seems to be the perfect place to reveal it all. The way I see this, there are three possibilities here and one of them is likely to materialize. First is what most would anticipate but, in my opinion,, the least probable, Google unveiling a fully realized console much like Sony and Microsoft. The reason this is unlikely is due to the fact that streaming services are gaining traction and advances in technology are pointing towards consoles being irrelevant in the near future. That said Sony and Microsoft seem to think otherwise, at least for one more generation as they are currently working on their next generation of consoles. The second possibility and the most likely one is that Google will integrate their gaming service by streaming them through smaller multimedia-centric devices like Chromecast, Google home or something like Apple TV. Google seems to have the resources and tools to combine the capabilities of these devices with cloud computing to deliver a unique gaming experience. The third and the most ambitious possibility, at least in my opinion, is that Google’s gaming service could be entirely cloud-based and all one needs to play their games would be a Chrome browser in a modest PC or a decent Android phone. While this was pretty much conceived on the PC back in October last year with ‘Project Stream’ making Assassin’s Creed Odyssey playable on a Chrome browser, I am not sure if the same can be applied on a larger scale with millions of users accessing games at the same time. Whatever the case is, just the idea that any of the above (or none of it) can happen is just enough to keep the anticipation meter at peak. We’ll just have to wait and watch. All this only brings us to the second point which is……
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I did not see this coming. While news of Google ‘investing heavily’ in gaming has been whispered here and there for a while now, seeing them actually make their move in 2019 is something that I did not anticipate. This year was already shaping up to be one of the best years for gaming, thanks to much-anticipated titles releasing this year and the possibility of new console announcements from two of the industry juggernauts. Google joining the fray only makes things that much more exciting. Looking back, we have seen various companies try entering the industry with their consoles and services, only to fail. But there is one important aspect of Google that makes it not only a competent competitor but a force to be reckoned with. And that is……
Google is one of the largest entities on Earth. As mentioned in point 1, they have the resources and tools to properly conduct R&D and make a splash in any industry. So, them wanting to enter the ever-expanding gaming market should not be taken lightly. The gaming industry dwarfs Hollywood in revenue and challenges technological limits constantly, and Google would certainly be aware of this fact. So it is reasonable to expect nothing short of revolutionary or mind-blowing from them. If they do exactly that, then they have a greater chance of success and in the process prove to be a formidable rival for Sony and Microsoft. In my opinion, if they reveal something unimpressive and lacklustre, they are just letting go of a golden goose.
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Assuming Google does impress and also assuming that they would likely take the streaming route, it raises a question of what type of content will be supported. If we strictly talk games, we have already seen Ubisoft (AC Odyssey) involved in their project, and can only assume that they would support whatever platform Google creates. If this is the case many other third party developers and publishers could likely join. This would only mean that there is one more platform where a Call of Duty or FIFA can be played. So, Sony and Microsoft will have to come up with new strategies to one-up Google, if not strengthen their existing ones. Not to mention work on a shift in focus towards a streaming oriented generation if Google succeeds in it.
I may sound like I am getting ahead of myself here, but if the above speculation turns true then we could see games streaming and cloud computing enter the mainstream a lot sooner than we thought. This could make gaming consoles dormant and gaming will suddenly be more accessible and more appealing to a much larger audience. The exciting thing in all of this is that there is a very good chance that all of this could actually happen. Microsoft is rumoured to already be working on a streaming based console alongside a more traditional successor to the Xbox One. Amazon is also rumoured to be investing in gaming and is likely to take advantage of its Echo and Firestick install base to stream their games. All of this paint a completely different picture than the usual couch, console and TV that are associated with games. In an industry that evolves as rapidly as it grows, this does not seem out of the question at all.
Of course, all of the above is just speculation and the whole thing could turn out to be something entirely different. But to see a behemoth like Google cast its eye on gaming and to show up at GDC is proof enough that the industry is a lucrative business opportunity for the ones who are up for the challenge. Apart from a few missteps (remember Google glasses) in its storied history, Google has been known to deliver the goods when it comes to technology and innovation and gaming seems to be right up their alley. Only time will tell how everything will pan out. The good news is that we don’t have to wait long. Google will hold its keynote at GDC on March 19, 10 AM PST. Here’s hoping for an early E3.