All signs point to a Google game console announcement at GDC
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A (not serious) artist's conception of what Google's gaming hardware might look like.
Enlarge / A (not severe) artist’s conception of what Google’s gaming {hardware} would possibly appear like.

Ron Amadeo / Apple

Usually, Google exhibiting as much as the Sport Builders Convention is not an enormous deal. The corporate does this beautiful a lot yearly—Android smartphones and Google Play are a fairly large gaming platform, in spite of everything—and it exhibits up with livestreams and blog posts and all the usual festivities. This year, though, is different. Google has been sending out vague teasers since last month for a GDC event, but as the date approaches, the company has been dropping more and more hints of exactly what it is announcing: Google is launching video game hardware for the Project Stream platform.

A new YouTube video for the event posted today asks people to “Gather around as we unveil Google’s vision for the future of gaming at GDC19.” Google recently wrapped up the “Project Stream” beta test, which streamed a full version of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey from the Internet to any desktop version of Chrome. A game-streaming platform certainly fits a vision for the future of gaming, but this is still just a piece of software.

Google hardware

There are two big pieces of evidence that this is a hardware announcement. First, Google is a heavily compartmentalized company, and the person promoting this event on Twitter is none other than Risk Osterloh, Google’s senior vice president of Hardware. Osterloh is behind the division that brought us the Pixel phone, Google Home, and every other Google hardware product. His involvement is a solid sign that, yes, new hardware is coming.

The second massive piece of proof is that Google can also be internet hosting a teaser web page on retailer.google.com. The Google Retailer. The Google {Hardware} Retailer. Google may host a teaser web page at any of its 1000’s of sub-domains, however for some mysterious purpose, it picked the Google Retailer. The “Google Store” does not promote software program—that may be “Google Play.” The Google Retailer solely sells {hardware}—issues like smartphones and tablets and laptops and Google House audio system. Quickly, apparently, it’ll promote online game {hardware}.

In keeping with a report from The Info (subscription required), Google’s gaming {hardware} was reportedly codenamed “Yeti” and has been within the works at Google for over three years now. We are able to solely guess at what Google gaming {hardware} would possibly appear like. In 2014, the corporate co-designed the Google Nexus Participant with Asus, which was a dead-simple mixture of some smartphone elements in a disk-shaped field, a TV distant, and a generic, Xbox-style recreation controller. That gadget was primarily an Android TV field, however a recreation streaming console may look much like this.

There was additionally this Google patent of a generic-looking recreation controller that made the information rounds the opposite day. The patent concerned pushing notifications to the controller, which could possibly be fascinating, and the drawings present Android-y {hardware} buttons—residence, menu, and microphone—presumably for Google voice instructions. The controller additionally acted as your authentication token, storing person info like your Google account and settings and utilizing a button mixture as a password. This patent was from 2014, although, so it is exhausting to know whether it is in any respect related. Firms patent each single concept they’ve, and random patents aren’t essentially indicative of future plans.

An alternative choice is simply to make use of the Google Chromecast. The Info’s Yeti report famous that “an early version” of Challenge Stream initially ran on Google’s present streaming stick, simply with a controller paired to it. On the time we did not know of a option to pair a controller to a Chromecast, for the reason that gadgets did not help Bluetooth or every other option to hook up a controller. Months later, a third-generation Chromecast began exhibiting up in shops, packing—would not you understand it—Bluetooth. So far as we all know, there isn’t any official rationalization for the brand new Chromecast’s Bluetooth help. So perhaps Rick Osterloh will stroll up on stage at GDC, maintain up a recreation controller, and say “Anyone that bought a Chromecast in the last six months now owns the Google game console.” Mic drop, exit stage proper.

Google infrastructure

The Internet is a series of tubes—like these cooling pipes in Google's Oregon data center.
Enlarge / The Web is a collection of tubes—like these cooling pipes in Google’s Oregon knowledge heart.

Quite a few firms have tried recreation streaming up to now, most notably Sony with the PlayStation Now and Nvidia with Geforce Now. Microsoft is leaping into the sport with “Project Xcloud,” which is powered by literal Xboxes performing as blade servers. Sony and Microsoft each have present conventional console companies to safeguard, although, and Nvidia needs to promote graphics playing cards. Google is the one gaming newcomer that does not have an present enterprise to guard.

Whereas Google is not a gaming powerhouse, it is an web infrastructure powerhouse. This might come in useful for a recreation streaming service that’s closely depending on community efficiency and transport video all over the world. Google, after all, runs a number of the hottest websites on the Web, together with Google.com and YouTube, the latter of which is among the largest bandwidth customers on the Web. Google’s pioneering knowledge heart work is among the key causes websites like YouTube can afford to exist. Google has always labored to make the Web cheaper, quicker, and decrease latency, and in the present day the corporate has a hand in just about each facet of the Web, from browsers to ISPs to protocols to fiber spine. If Google actually needs to spend money on making low-latency recreation streaming a actuality, there’s a lot it may well carry to the desk.

Google… Video games?

Having {hardware} and a streaming platform is good, however it does not matter one bit if you have no video games to play. A Kotaku report from the center of final 12 months stated Google was pursuing “aggressive recruiting or even major acquisitions” within the video games trade to attempt to construct a library for its gaming platform.

There is a good probability former Xbox and PlayStation government Phil Harrison was concerned in these negotiations, as Google employed him initially of 2018. One other massive rent was simply introduced lately: Google snapped up former Ubisoft and EA government Jade Raymond. Raymond might be VP of an undisclosed division at Google. It appears like she’s not allowed to speak about it proper now.

Google’s press convention is March 19 at 10am Pacific. There might be a stay stream right here.

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