Google could be the next major company to announce efforts to stream high-end games from remote servers. Kotaku cites five unnamed people familiar with the company’s plans in reporting on the existence of an effort to roll out a streaming gaming platform and hardware to enable it, alongside “an attempt to bring game developers under the Google umbrella, whether through aggressive recruiting or even major acquisitions.”
The Information reported similar whispers of Google’s game-streaming plans back in February, saying a program codenamed Yeti had been in development for at least two years. But Kotaku adds that Google met with “several big video game companies” at March’s Game Developers Conference and June’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, looking to make acquisitions and attract support for the coming streaming platform. Kotaku’s sources also suggest Yeti could be integrated with Google’s existing YouTube services, letting users look up video walkthroughs without even leaving the game. Since OnLive failed to build a successful business around streamed games earlier in the decade, there has been renewed interest in the idea of using high-end Internet connections to stream high-end games to cheap, low-end hardware. Sony has used its PlayStation Now service to provide streamed versions of many classic PlayStation games for years now, and Nvidia’s GeForce Now offers similar cloud-based functionality for PC games.
Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot is bullish on the idea, too, recently saying that game streaming could replace consoles entirely after one more generation of hardware. And Microsoft made vague gestures toward an Azure-based game streaming service at this year’s E3 after saying five years ago that the idea of streaming games was “cool” but “problematic.”
Many households in the developed world now have enough broadband bandwidth to easily stream live HD video of a game from a server relatively well. But the round-trip latency between button presses and on-screen responses remains a bigger problem for cloud-based gaming as a concept—even a few dozen milliseconds of added delay can be noticeable for some games. Google’s massive scale and existing data distribution infrastructure could definitely help in that regard, though a lot would depend on users’ individual ISPs and home networking setups. Predictive modeling technology like Microsoft’s DeLorean system could also help mitigate any apparent effect of Internet latency for streamed gameplay.
Previous reports of Google looking to enter the video game space have ended up resulting in no actual action—see suggestions that Google was looking to buy Twitch before Amazon actually made the acquisition in 2014. But Google’s hiring of former PlayStation and Xbox executive Phil Harrison earlier this year could point to more serious interest in the space this time around.