Did Google build a gaming console? Believe it or not, it actually might have happened.
The behemoth search-engine-turned-world-conqueror released an extremely cryptic teaser on Tuesday ahead of the upcoming Game Developers Conference next week. The video shows a series of densely rendered, 3D locations—many of them reminiscent of classic video game settings, like a racing car garage and an aircraft hangar—with the caption, “Gather around as we unveil Google’s vision for the future of gaming.”
This isn’t the first time Google has been a presence at GDC. The company made appearances in the past to unveil products and tools, such as the industry-leading AR/VR technology it announced last year. But this year may be different. Following massive developments in its Project Stream beta test, it seems Google is primed to leap into the gaming world in a big way. And when a company like Google says it’s about to rock the boat, we better brace for maximum impact. Here’s everything we know about Google’s mysterious “future of gaming” plans so far.
Is Google making a console?
It’s hard to say for sure if Google will unveil hardware at GDC19. Though, as reported by Ars Technica, there are some pretty big giveaways. Rick Osterloh, the senior vice president of hardware at Google, shared the teaser video on his personal Twitter account, seemingly confirming his involvement with the big announcement. And not only that, but, as Ars Technica found, the Google Store is hosting a page for the GDC livestream. If it’s not selling a device of some sort, then why reserve a spot for something on its digital storefront?
Has Google made a console before?
Though Google has never seriously attempted to get into the console race against PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo, this would not be the first time it released gaming-ready hardware. Of course, devices like the Google Pixel and any Android phone are all completely capable of running video games, but most of us tend to forget about the short-lived Google Nexus Player. Released in 2014, the Nexus Player was essentially an Apple TV that could run Google’s vast library of Android games with an operating system called “Android TV” and a gaming controller. Though the Nexus Player worked, its fate was similar to other “microconsoles” such as the Mad Catz M.O.J.O or the short-lived Ouya: It failed to attract the attention of the serious console gaming community.
What about that Google controller patent?
A number of tech sites recently shared an image of what looks like a patent filed by Google in January for a gaming controller. PC Gamer says that the patent is actually focused on a “notification system” for a controller. The concept showcases an interface for friend invites, changes in leaderboard status, and app-related functions.
But, lest we forget, companies file patents constantly. For instance, one time Nintendo patented a phone that let you play Super Mario DX. Obviously, nothing ever came of it.
What is Project Stream?
In October of 2018, Google unveiled a limited beta test for its bonkers new streaming tech known as Project Stream. The mind-blowing beta allowed lucky participants to play Ubisoft’s recent Triple-A title, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey inside their Google Chrome browsers. It’s a wonder this technology wasn’t bigger news at the time. Essentially, if you had access to a computer with a fairly robust internet connection (25 megabits per second, to be exact), you could run Odyssey at pretty much full quality. That’s insane, especially when considering that only 10 years ago, most of the internet was still playing Flash Games on Candystand.com.
The craziest part? It worked. Beta testers reported that the game ran smoothly within their browsers, and could be played seamlessly with a keyboard and mouse, or controller. The tech is quite complex, but Google pulled it off by taking processing heavy-lifting away from the laptop and putting it into its own server-farms. Through streaming, Google was able to process these high-powered visuals and deliver the game to players via the cloud. Though tech like this already exists, like Sony’s Playstation Now service, it’s bewildering to see it happen inside the same internet browser we all use to check our emails and watch cat videos.
When do we find out the truth about these Google console rumors?
GDC19 starts on Monday, March 18 at 1 p.m. EDT. Google’s big announcement happens the following day, Tuesday, March 19 at 1 p.m. EDT. You can watch the livestream here via Youtube.