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OPINION: The big questions surrounding Google's GDC 2019 keynote

OPINION: The big questions surrounding Google's GDC 2019 keynote

Though it has long supported games via the likes of the mobile-focused Play Store, Google is now jumping into the market with both feet. Tomorrow at San Francisco's GDC, the tech giant is going to unveil its games business at a morning keynote event.

Very little is known about what Google has planned; there's been an almost-impressive lack of leaks about the company's games plans. But at PCGamesInsider.biz, we've decided to break down what we expect the tech giant is going to announce tomorrow.

First up is what the hardware or ecosystem is going to look like. We know the company has displayed an interest in streaming with its, uh, Project Stream initiative. This was announced last year with a beta test bringing Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed Odyssey to Google's Chrome web browser. This actually ties into information disclosed as part of patents filed by the Big G with appear to relate to its games business. It's worth noting that patents aren't products, but its game controller appears to be able to connect to any number of devices.

This suggests that Google's game business is going to be a streaming or cloud-based proposition, with the firm selling just a controller and selling games online. That's not to say that Google isn't going to release hardware; we wouldn't be surprised to see the company's strategy resembling Microsoft's plans for the next generation - a fully-fledged bit of console hardware launching alongside a cheaper box that allows users to stream games from the cloud. Google doesn't have retail heritage in the same way that Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo does, meaning that the firm isn't necessarily beholden to physical stores in the same way. A digital-only offering is likely, especially given that Google already operates its own retail offering with its other hardware, including phones, tablets and Home assistants.

It also remains to be seen who this console is for. If Google is indeed launching a cloud games ecosystem - the long-awaited 'Netflix-for-games' service many in the industry seem desperate for - then Google will be targeting a very broad audience indeed. It's also going to be interesting what markets this is aimed at. We'd bet this is entered on the US and Europe, but Google's long-term vision will include China.

The reason we're asking about the audience for Google's games business is that this will inform what content is going to come to the ecosystem.

It would be no surprise to see Ubisoft on-stage at Google's event; the French publishing firm has already supported Google's games dreams with Assassin's Creed Odyssey being central to the Project Stream beta last year. That's on top of the fact that Ubisoft historically supports new tech and hardware very early in its lifecycle; just look at the firm jumping in with both feet on Nintendo's Wii, Wii U and Switch consoles, as well as making games such as Eagles Flight and Star Trek: Bridge Crew for multiple VR platforms. If the next Assassin's Creed or Watch Dogs games weren't on Google's tech, we'd be surprised.

EA and 2K Games are also likely candidates due to their big IP and family-friendly sports offerings. The same is true of Bethesda, with Google likely bringing them on board to let hardware gamers know that they're going to be served by this business, too. No doubt Skyrim will come to the Google Box, because... well... it's on everything else already. Frontier Developments would be a solid bet, also, with its high-quality and family-friendly offerings. Epic's Fortnite seems like a shoe-in due to it being wildly popular, but given that the company has butted heads with Google in the past, whether it comes this platform remains unclear.

As well as third-party content, it's likely that Google will be announcing an investment in games studios. The news that Ubisoft and EA vet Jade Raymond was joining is a sure sign that the tech giant is taking games seriously. Raymond's specialism is building studios, so it's safe to assume that she will be heading up work on Google's first party studio or studios.

There are also comparisons to be made between Google's entry into games and Microsoft's; both tech and software companies that boast considerable financial clout. The Xbox firm's games debut saw the firm snapping up beloved studios including Rare and Lionhead. Thus, it's likely to see Google announcing that it has bought some studios as exclusive content to draw users into its ecosystem. While the value and importance of first-party games has certainly diminished in the last console generation, they're still necessary to help differentiate your hardware from the rest.

In terms of what studios Google would have bought - that's honestly something we have absolutely no idea of. However, if Google was to announce to buy a company like Take-Two, we wouldn't be surprised. Massive investments like that will barely make a dent in the bottom line of a company like Google - and that would give the company a wide variety of content from blockbusters like Grand Theft Auto to sports titles like NBA 2K.

While it's exciting to see that a big company like Google is getting into the games market, it's likely that the tech giant will run into problems. It's very rare for a company's first foray into any new sector to go entirely smoothly. There are substantial questions about Google's games biz - when will it launch? What's the price point? How are developers going to be compensated?

Oh, and with the current climate around tech companies, we'll bet that Google will mention user data collection - something that is mentioned in patent filings around streaming services and a game controller.

We'll know more tomorrow - stay tuned to PCGamesInsider.biz tomorrow for more information.


Editor - PC Games Insider

Alex Calvin launched PCGamesInsider.biz in August 2017 and has been its editor since. Prior to this, he was deputy editor at UK based games trade paper MCV and content editor for marketing and events for London Games Festival 2017. His work has also appeared in Eurogamer, The Observer, Kotaku UK, Esquire UK and Develop.

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