In the past decade, the gaming industry has seen (and is still seeing) a number of attempts to breach the Nintendo – Microsoft – Sony triage of Gaming Console domination. The Phantom, The N-Gage, The Gizmondo, The OUYA: Time and time again, these projects have failed to stand the test of time despite garnering a significant amount of excitement prior to launch.
Even the big three have had their fair share of bumps and bruises along the way: The initial announcement of the Xbox One’s Online-Only functionality and inclusion of the Kinect flopped spectacularly next to the first showing of the PS4, the WiiU suffered from horrific marketing and sold very poorly, and Sony eventually abandoned its line of PSP devices after failing to compete with the Nintendo DS.
If these missteps and commercial flops have proven anything, its that the console gaming sphere is a very tough bubble to burst. This has dissuaded a lot of interested parties from trying their hand at creating a gaming console. No console in a long time has managed to hold up to the big three in console gaming. It’s a feat that, to many, appears to be next to impossible.
Apparently, Google doesn’t care.
According to a report from Kotaku, the current information on Google’s platform is somewhat vague. According to “the word from five people who have either been briefed on Google’s plans or heard about them secondhand,” Google’s upcoming platform will feature a large focus on streaming integration and incorporate an attempt to bring gaming developers under the Google umbrella. Whether this process will be through a diplomatic partnership involving mutual gains or through a series of aggressive sales acquisitions remains to be seen, but Google certainly has enough resources for the latter.
Google’s interest in the streaming market is nothing new; The company had made previous attempts to acquire Twitch before Amazon stepped in, and hopes this new console will realize its dream for a streaming platform. And according to the Kotaku report, Google’s plans for this console sound nothing short of mythic.
“the Google service would offload the work of rendering graphics to beefy computers elsewhere, allowing even the cheapest PCs to play high-end games. The biggest advantage of streaming, as opposed to physical discs or downloads, is that it removes hardware barriers for games. Games like Call of Duty can reach a significantly bigger audience if players don’t need an expensive graphics card or console to play them. As one person familiar with Yeti described it: Imagine playing The Witcher 3 within a tab on Google Chrome.”
But if such a thing was as easy as it sounds, it’s hard to believe that this has not been thought of before. It actually has: The Blade Shadow has been promising a similar service for some time by allowing users to access a number of super high-end PCs to crank those settings up to ultra. A few other services such as GeForce Now are also attempting to make a service of this kind.
“So why haven’t I heard about it? Why isn’t everyone doing this?”
Well, there’s one big roadblock: Lag.
As it turns out, transporting massive quantities of data over long distances is hard, even for speedy wired connections. In addition, there is no audience more picky over input delay than serious gamers, who need the fastest possible response times on their buttons to maneuver their avatars in tight situations. Until Google finds a way to crack this issue, their attempt at a streaming console is unlikely to find any success greater than the mixed results of the GeForce Now and Blade Shadow.
Still, Google is a much larger and wealthier group than the folks behind Blade Shadow or GeForce. It’s possible that they could employ a more expensive (but much faster) method of transferring data, figure out a way to greatly mitigate the latency issue, or just invest in such a large number of host locations that the distance between the computer doing the processing and the consumer is small enough to cut down on lag. If any company can do this concept justice, it’s probably Google.
If this concept was done justice, we could see a subscription-based service to access a top-end PC quickly leading to PC gaming entirely replacing console gaming. Think about it: The main appeal of Console gaming over PC gaming is the low price of entry and the ease of use. A functional service like this one would allow even the cheapest PC to play practically every game available with zero limitations and close to zero technical difficulties. Whatever physical “console” Google ships with this service will most likely be nothing more than an advanced router specifically for this service, so it might be even cheaper than the standard $400 current-gen gaming console.
Simply put, if Google gets this right, they’d do more than just make their way into console gaming.
They’d end it.