They say three’s a crowd, but what does that make four? Though Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo each have their own dedicated game consoles available right now, Google could soon join the fray with its own machine. The console will likely take a different form than game systems we’ve seen in the past, but if it makes it to store shelves, it has a chance to seriously shake up the industry. Here’s everything we know (and have heard) about Google’s rumored console.
Given Google’s love of streaming in devices like the Google Home and Chromecast, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Google’s console will reportedly be a streaming platform, code-named “Yeti.” According to Kotaku, the plan would be for Google to run high-performance games on its own machines and stream them to the the console to ensure ease-of-entry for players.
The same report also said there could be some sort of YouTube integration to help players through difficult sections of a game, potentially pulling up walkthrough videos to watch along with as they attempt to replicate them. We’ve seen other companies, including Sony, try similar ideas — the PlayStation 4’s “Share Play” feature can allow another player to temporarily take over your console and play certain areas for you.
As it will likely be a streaming-only device, this could help to get the price down on the actual hardware unit. Given that many players own multiple systems already — which take up considerable shelf space — a small and cheap addition could still have a place in a crowded gaming setup.
Back in February, The Information reported that Google had been testing Yeti as a service that could be used via Google Chromecast. This service would be subscription-based, meaning players would likely not be purchasing the games they play on it.
However, the report said a dedicated hardware unit designed to do the same thing was also possible, and that it would use its own game controller designed by the Google team. Yeti was apparently due to launch in 2017, but was delayed for undisclosed reasons.
Exact details about hardware, performance, and pricing are unknown — not even rumors have leaked out.
Game streaming services like GameFly Streaming and GeForce Now offer a selection of games you can also get on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, or PC, but Yeti could offer its own games, as well. The same Kotaku report said that Google met with large game companies and could be looking to purchase developers outright. If that’s the case, it’s unlikely these developers would be releasing games on other platforms, as well, though we have seen this with Mojang’s Minecraft after the company was purchased by Microsoft.
Google does have a game development presence, but it isn’t the typical studio setup we see at other major game publishers. Earlier this year, the company announced an internal “startup” company called Arcade, founded and co-owned the 21-year-old Michael Sayman. Sayman previously worked at Facebook and released the mobile game 4 Snaps while still in high school. If Google were to move ahead with its game development plans, Sayman seems like the perfect person to help kick things off.
This actually isn’t Google’s first attempt at a console. The company made an earlier effort with the Nexus Player, an Android-powered home entertainment box designed in collaboration with Asus, and released in 2014. The Nexus Player was based on smartphone hardware and ran Android, so it could handle most games developed for that platform.
Google had hopes that Android games, served by the affordable Nexus Player (it was just $100 at launch), could appeal to casual gamers, or people who’d already purchased Android games for a phone. The launch was half-hearted, however. Both gamers and Google seem to forget about it within weeks of its arrival.
The rumors about a Google console are exciting, as its entry would be just as disruptive as Microsoft’s launch of Xbox. Yet its clear that Google’s plans are in early stages. The company could decide to move forward, or it might decide a console isn’t worth the effort. We’ll update this article as soon as we hear more.