Streaming: the ominous word looming over the gaming industry in 2018. As a new era of Netflix-style games-as-services make their way to the forefront, we’re all still undecided on whether it’s a good or bad thing. Will game-streaming’s ease of access make a frequent gamer’s life easier? Or will streaming mark the end of video game-ownership as we know it, putting ease of access into the corporate office’s hands? No one can say for sure, but whether you like the idea of streaming or not, it’s coming, and it’s seeming as if Google might be leading the way.
According to a report initially lead by Kotaku, Google is planning on getting into the gaming industry with a slam-bang opening. Apparently, the massive tech corporation has a video game console in the works, codenamed the “Yeti”, and it will feature a streaming service similar to Nvidia’s GeForce Now. Now while the console itself wouldn’t necessarily be the most powerful thing in the world, it wouldn’t need to be, since the device would be offloading the heavy-lifting of processing to an online server. Theoretically, this console would be quite a bit cheaper than most others since it wouldn’t need as much power as an Xbox One or PS4 to operate. Plus, you wouldn’t ever have to purchase games on Google’s new console – like Xbox GamePass, you would pay a flat monthly or yearly fee and have access to all the games you’d want. Clever, right?
But there are some major limitations to this seemingly perfect system. For one, there’s internet speed – the fluency of whatever game you may be playing on your Google Yeti would entirely depend on the MBPS of your WiFi router. If you use a lower-end internet provider, or live out in the middle of nowhere, the Yeti isn’t going to do much for you. If your game is laggy, frame-capped, down-ressed and input-lagged, you aren’t going to have too much fun playing it.
Another issue people are quick to point out is the lack of ownership that comes with a subscription. None of the games you’d be playing would either belong to you, as with a physical disc or cartridge, nor would they be licensed to you, as with a digital download. Essentially, you would be paying a flat fee for access to a library that is out of your ownership. Not only that, but any of the library could be taken down at any point to make room for new games. So if you were really far into Rise of the Tomb Raider and Google kicked it off of the service to make room for Shadow of the Tomb Raider, too bad! That’s what you’d be paying for.
While the Yeti certainly wouldn’t have the first online gaming subscription service, it would be the first console to launch with it built-in. At the time of writing, Sony’s PlayStation Now and Nvidia’s GeForce Now are the two most popular gaming streaming services, but they mainly serve as supplements or accessories for less-powerful PC’s. If you want to buy the game outright, both services of course offer that option. But with the Google Yeti, streaming would be the only option – you simply wouldn’t be able to purchase these games outright at all. It would be a radical step on Google’s part, but very forward thinking.
Streaming is taking over the entertainment industry – some would say it already has. Think about it: when was the last time you rented a movie from Redbox, or bought a Blu-ray outright? Heck, do you even own a Blu-ray player anymore? When was the last time you bought an album on iTunes, or bought a CD track at Walmart? Been a little while, hasn’t it? The way things are going, streaming subscriptions like Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, and Apple Music have practically replaced traditional music and film sales.
Nobody wants to buy content outright anymore – except when it comes to video games. Steam is a massive force in gaming that has never offered any sort of subscription service, and it’s still going strong. The PlayStation, Microsoft, and Nintendo stores bring in millions of sales per month. Video game sales have proven that people are still willing to pay outright for their content – will the Google Yeti change that?
One thing’s for sure, if the Yeti is real (and it’s seeming like it will be), Google isn’t screwing around with it. Over the past few months, the astronomical tech corporation has hired multiple developers from EA and PlayStation, as well as snatching up former top Xbox and PlayStation manager Phil Harrison. If Google’s looking to overturn the gaming market, they’re sure hiring the right people to do it.
It’s a weird, subscription-based future of gaming we’re looking at – let’s hope it doesn’t end in disaster.