Opinion: Let's Take Google Seriously in the Video Game Industry

Screen Shot 2018-07-26 at 3.10.41 PM.png

With rumors about Google entering the video game space resurfacing in recent months, conversations have sparked once again about the tech giant's potential run against the likes of Playstation and Xbox. This discussion has proven to be divisive among gamers and non-gamers alike.

Here's a few facts surrounding the Google gaming rumblings:

  • There are three main angles Google is taking in its approach: 1) some kind of hardware, 2) a games streaming software, and 3) efforts to aggressively recruit game devs, and/or to flat out acquire major studios.
  • Google reps met with a handful of established video game companies to discuss interest in the streaming platform (Codename: Yeti) at this year's Game Developers Conference and E3.
  • In January, Google hired Phil Harrison - an industry vet with over two decades of experience as a manager at places like Sony and Microsoft.
  • Google has ungodly amounts of money*.

What is stopping Google from making massive moves in the video game industry? The answer: very little. If we consider Google's three-pronged approach compared it to its relevant track record, there isn't much that would make a successful entrance into gaming an unlikely scenario. It's also worth noting that Google has had interest in the video game industry for a very long time, and was even in line to acquire Twitch for $1 Billion in 2014. Through hardware and software alike, Google has had its fingers in our professional and personal lives for the better part of two decades, so don't tell me that they can't develop a beautiful console or a reliable streaming service. I won't believe you. Need more proof? Fine.

Hardware

 Via Canalys

Via Canalys

Google's list of products is dizzying, and the slew of hardware products on this list is far from weak. With a reasonable price point and a host of features like unlimited photo storage, the Pixel 2 is widely praised as a game-changer in the mobile phone space with its focus on function over fashion. Google Home recently took the top spot in the 2018 battle of Smart Speakers sales, beating out the Amazon Echo by over 700,000 units in Q1, and doesn't seem to be slowing as the year rolls on. Google's Chromecast also just toppled Amazon's Fire TV Stick in Best Buy's sales ranking for the first time ever. I could go on, but history speaks for itself-- Google has a track record of building reliable hardware, and applying that know-how to the video game space won't be difficult. "But Manny! Google Glass was a confused mess with unorganized marketing and no clear market fit"! That sounds an awful lot like The Playstation Move - but it didn't stop Sony from destroying its competition in the current generation of consoles. Wearable tech is far from mass adoption, video games aren't. Next.

 

Streaming Software

 GeForce Now (top) is notably less detailed than a native system running the same game

GeForce Now (top) is notably less detailed than a native system running the same game

This is where things get tricky. Despite being attempted by a number of key players in the gaming space, a reliable video games streaming service is still a relatively novel concept. PlayStation Now has proven to to be only so-so, offering a fairly glitchy and laggy experience--even for those with solid internet connections. More recently, Nvidia's GeForce Now has picked up steam, but has also fallen a bit flat in regards to stable connectivity image quality. Without a solid first-to-market mover, games streaming is wide open for the taking--and I can't think of many that are more equipped to dominate it than Google. Are there obstacles to overcome? Clearly. Beefy broadband connections being the largest. But with recent FCC proposals that could speed up the rollout of gigabit internet providers, Google could be preparing to expand Fiber efforts sooner than expected. At the end of the day when it comes to cloud-streaming games, there are more questions than answers. But you know who has a great record of answering big questions?..

Development Talent

Even with a stable streaming service and a beautiful console, nothing will move the needle for Google more than good games. Fortunately for them, not too many companies can go toe-to-toe with Google's financial wherewithal. Generating revenue in excess of $110 billion in 2017, the price tag of dev talent, whether through recruiting or acquisition, will be irrelevant. Full stop.

Let's all come to our senses about Google entering the video game industry. They have the knowledge, the financial resources, and the vision to bring their ideas to fruition. The great waves of change are coming (just like they do every 5-8 years in this industry), and we all should simply wait for their arrival.

 

*More of a guess than a fact, but I bet I'm not wrong.