Ah, the elusive videogame streaming service. It is a market that seemingly every company wants to participate in and everyone thinks they stand a chance at succeeding, and yet as of today, only one has, and it took an acquisition to make it happen: PlayStation Now. Companies both big and small have given it a shot: we saw a new entrant at CES, and there is the infamous OnLive debacle.
This week, a report suggests that another company wants to get into the space: Google. Their project, codenamed Yeti, is a game streaming service intended to go where only PlayStation Now has gone before: success. While the company has a place in the gaming industry thanks to Google Play Games and their Twitch competitor YouTube Gaming, there are a lot of obstacles to overcome to stand a chance at success.
Obviously Google has something going for them that companies like OnLive didn't: domain expertise. Between the search engine and YouTube, Google is one of the largest content distributors on the internet and knows how to build an infrastructure to support large format content. But domain expertise is only enough to build a functional service, not enough to make it commercially attractive or successful.
For the service to be possible, they need a platform, of which they currently have 2. While Android is obviously a popular platform for phones, the demand for a streaming service on a phone is questionable at best. They also have ChromeOS, which could have some potential for demand (PlayStation Now is available on PC), the platform is not popular enough outside of schools to support it. That leaves either bringing the service to someone else's platform, such as Xbox or PlayStation, which is unlikely, or Windows, which is possible, or they have to build a platform for it.
Building a gaming platform from scratch to compete against Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony is beyond difficult. If you need a litmus test, as Valve just how well their market leading position in PC gaming helped them build a console business in Steam Machines. Google isn't even a market leader in the industry, and would be trying to do something that Valve failed at, while also limiting the capabilities beyond what even SteamOS did.
So, you have to wonder how serious Google is about entering this market. According to the report, they are serious enough that the company considered releasing the service (with or without accompanying hardware) for the holiday 2017 season, though there is no explanation as to why it was delayed or canceled. My guess would be that Google thought better of trying to compete against Nintendo, in particular, during a time when the holiday hype machine was in full effect for the company.
Perhaps Yeti will see the light of day within the year. Would a Google-powered streaming-only dedicated console be an attractive product for you? Let us know in the comments.