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February 9, 2018

Google may be reattempting to enter the console market with a streaming service

by John_A

Android “consoles” seem to come and go like the latest trend, but Google apparently wants to keep the dream alive by providing its own game-streaming platform and possibly a first-party console. The latest rumor pins down a project codenamed as “Yeti” targeting a subscription-based streaming service playable on Google’s Chromecast devices. That could mean Google plans to release a new version of Chromecast packing Bluetooth connectivity, and a compatible game controller. 

According to an unnamed source, Google developed Yeti for two years. The company originally had the service locked and loaded for a holiday 2017 launch, but reportedly decided to delay the project. So far there’s no indication of when — or if — the Yeti project will ever go retail. An updated Chromecast, however, is inevitable regardless of Yeti’s status. 

Unfortunately, there is no information about the rumored “console.” There is also no information about what Google plans to stream: Will the company simply offer Android games, or team up with Steam to provide a service that supports high-quality desktop-class games?

Possibly fueling Google’s Yeti project is Phil Harrison, who now serves as a vice president and general manager under the search giant’s roof. His previous experience includes three years on the Xbox team, as an advisory for Sony’s Gaikai streaming service, as a board member at Atari, and three other roles at Sony. Bringing Harrison on board at Google may be why the company chose to push back the launch of its Yeti project. He reports directly to Google’s Senior Vice President of Hardware Rick Osterloh. 

Currently, the most popular Android “console” on the market is Nvidia’s Shield TV. It’s an Android TV set-top box at heart, powered by the company’s Tegra-branded mobile processor. But it also focuses on gaming: Android-based games installed on the device, and PC games that you can stream through Nvidia’s GeForce Now service. This may be the market Google is addressing with its unannounced Yeti project. 

Nvidia is currently rolling out a beta of GeForce Now for Windows and MacOS-based PCs. The service creates a virtual desktop in the cloud powered by Nvidia’s GTX 1080 graphics cards.  You install your favorite Steam-based games in this virtual environment and then stream those games to low-end machines. 

Google could likely be backtracking to do something similar along with providing the service on the Chromecast or a micro-console. This could prove to be a great benefit for Chromebook owners who purchased a low-end device, but still want the benefits of playing high-quality desktop games. 

Google attempted to create an Android-based console in 2014 but scrapped its plans given the lackluster retail performance of the Ouya Android console. Ouya started out as a highly successful Kickstarter project that landed $8.59 million in funding but faced a retail roadblock because it didn’t support Google Play apps. Other clones came and went with very little success.

Sony already provides its Gaikai-backed PlayStation Now service that streams more than 600 PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 games. Microsoft plans to enter the streaming market with an Xbox-branded service within the next several years. 

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