Just when you thought Google couldn't dip its toes into one more industry, a new report says that the company is taking a serious look at gaming with a new subscription-based game streaming service.
Whatever hardware the company chooses, this nascent streaming service will be in direct competition with Nvidia's GeForce Now. Like Nvidia's service, Google would stream the games to subscribers rather than forcing them to download the games. Twitter commenters and tech reporters are already calling the yet-to-be-launched service the "Netflix of games."
Jumping the Gun
But not so fast. Streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video are popular because of their content. And Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, doesn't believe Google has what it takes to make a dent in the game-streaming market.
"My guess is, since it's Google, that they're going to start with a bunch of mobile games," Pachter told Tom's Guide. "And I'm not sure what they have that anyone would want to pay for. ... I don't think there's a chance that this works."
Successful game-streaming services are a rarity. Just look at GameTap, OnLive and Gaikai, all of which were selling the promised land of gaming. Sony ended up purchasing Gaikai and OnLive, which evolved into PlayStation Now. GameTap ended up being acquired by Metaboli and was never heard from again.
"Consumers pretty much don't want to pay subscriptions," Pachter said. "I think there's this misperception among big companies that because Netflix was able to pull it off with video content, that they can pull it off with game content. And it just doesn't work that way."
In order for Google to enjoy any success, it will have to convince big-name developers and publishers to allow them to stream their content, as well as create some original content of its own. Both methods will involve Google shelling out a pretty penny.
But if anyone has a chance of making a streaming service work, it's not going to be Google. Pachter said if he was going to place his bets on anyone getting this formula right, it would be Nintendo, due to its huge back catalog of games. He also has his eye on Amazon.
"Amazon," he said, "which has announced nothing, is quietly building games, and we don't know what they're building."
Pachter cited several high-profile hires Amazon has made, including Louis Castle, veteran of the Command & Conquer Series, and Leslie Benzies, who worked as the executive producer of Grand Theft Auto V.
The Console That Wasn't
In addition to streaming to Chromecast, there's talk of Google creating its own home gaming console. But before you get visions of another Ooya in your head, Pachter believes this new system could already be in your house.
"What I think Google is planning to do is, and I know Amazon is planning to do, is create a console that's not a console," he said.
Pachter is imagining an Alexa-enabled device from Amazon, like an evolved Amazon Echo Show, or an Apple TV with a docking station that has an integrated GPU. In the latter case, the CPU would be the iPhone. In a Google setup, this could be Google Home paired with an Android smartphone.
In each case, the device would connect to your television or monitor via Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth. Throw in an aftermarket controller, and you've got a game console.
"Think about what consoles are and why they exist," Pachter said. "The guys that made the arcade games realized if they could move the arcade game into your home, they could sell more games. All they did was break the arcade game down into a CPU, a GPU and a joystick and a monitor."
"When we first got consoles, they didn't have the ability to play on any other device in our home," he added. "All Google is saying is Google Home is the Trojan horse that will become a game console — or maybe a Nest thermostat will become a console — you never know what they're really planning."
With that line of thinking, potentially any Android or Apple device could become a viable gaming system.
"I don't think very many consumers are going to go out and buy the Google console," Pachter said. "But I do think people will buy a Chromebook and it will work as a console."
Ultimately, only Google knows what it has planned for Yeti and its rumored console. If history is any indication, the company will have to launch with a large library stacked with popular hits from top developers and publishers to succeed. But unless Google makes it worth their while, the company will be fighting an uphill battle.
The console might have more promise if the platform can be accessed via smartphone, tablet or laptop. It's an idea that could significantly change the world of gaming — if Google can pull it off.