It's been an interesting few weeks for the games industry. First, there was the announcement that Netflix and Telltale would be teaming up to bring Minecraft: Story Mode to the streaming platform as its first playable title. Then the reports of Snapchat's entry into the market with a platform dedicated to mobile gaming came in.
Now, as of today, Kotaku has reported that Google is currently working on a technically advanced streaming console set to go toe to toe with Xbox and PlayStation in the mainstream gaming sphere. The company will apparently make use of its massive server network and infinite cash flow to stream high-end games to a premium service, with Kotaku using the illustration of playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt on a Google Chrome browser.
It's all very hush hush right now, but Yeti (the project's unofficial codename) has apparently been in the works a while, with Google meeting developers and publishers during GDC and E3 this year to gauge interest and perhaps even acquire entire studios to make games for the device.
This isn't the first time a big, formerly non-games related company has attempted to make strides into the industry (Amazon acquired Twitch in 2014 and is working on its own game engine), and it certainly won't be the last. There's an increasing amount of money to be made from games, which are no longer considered risky business as its audience grows and the medium continues to be accepted as a permanent side-arm of popular entertainment.
"What major company wouldn’t want to be part of an industry worth almost $150bn?" asks Michael French, Director of Games London and the annual London Games Festival, who offered his two cents to GamesRadar+ on the matter.
"Creating a new service to sell games, creating new games or working with existing games companies would give Google, Netflix and Snapchat increased audience appeal, more features and services, and help them make more money. They can also flex their skills in entertainment space where we’re increasingly seeing a lot of crossover – for instance there’s a growing talent pipeline crossover between movie production, VFX, and games graphics."
But could the likes of Google, Netflix, and Snapchat change the gaming landscape forever? Are we entering a world where all our entertainment - be it social media, games, or the internet itself - blends into one, nebulous platform? And will Yeti be able to make good on the promise of a competent game streaming service where so many other companies have failed?
Piers Harding-Rolls, Head of Games Research & Lead AR/VR Analyst at IHS Market, is optimistic. "I think Google is making a concerted move now because it can see a moment of disruption approaching for the console sector with the start of a new generation of hardware and the emergence of cloud gaming services. What’s missing is exclusive content, but Google has the fire power to acquire exclusives or even studios and already well exposed to the games market through Google Play, YouTube and its AR/VR platform strategies."
It's unclear when Google plans to officially unveil Yeti to the public, or indeed whether it'll come to fruition at all, or fall to the wayside like so many other projects the company has previously explored. Either way, these new reports are a telltale window into the future not just of video games, but how we'll be able to play them.