+ Wednesday July 24th, 2019

We’ve been hearing about Google’s about-to-launch Project Yeti for quite a while now, but it seems the company is finally ready to tip its hand next week at next week’s Game Developer Conference.

Google’s tease for GDC takes the form of a video set in generic, vaguely gaming-related environments (garage, forest, stadium, etc) moving forward and accelerating towards some distant light, with the words “Gather Round” at the end.

The choice of “Gather Around” as a moniker is an interesting one – could there be a social component to what Google’s planning to reveal, rather that straight up gaming hardware?

The teaser ends directing users to g.co/gatheraround, which US sites say, leads to a landing page on the Google Store. For Australia, it leads to a general “Made by Google” page that offers Home, Pixel, Chromecast, and something about “a new way to play” – there’s a “Show Me” button that just reloads the page.

According to longstanding rumour, Google’s Project Yeti is likely to be some kind of set top box hardware – a console box with controllers – that streams games from the cloud rather than running them locally. It would certainly be unusual to have a promotion on the Google Store if there’s nothing physical to buy. Streaming games from the cloud – something Google’s familiar with after streaming games into Chrome browsers last year – reduces the hardware specs needed to run games, although it comes with some particularly stringent network sites and latency requirements.

Don’t forget the resurgence of rumours around Google’s gaming ambitions recently yielded a fan-made render of a controller, based on designs gleaned from patents.

That might look clunky and unwieldy, but it’s probably (hopefully) not what Google would launch. The company has been making gaming-related hires for a while now, and you would hope that those people would know good controller design.

Where there’s smoke there’s probably fire

Google wouldn’t be the first company to stream games to consumers, either – at last year’s MWC we took a look at Hatch and played a streamed version of Angry Birds. Hatch hasn’t launched in many markets though – many games require millisecond timing and wildly varying network conditions can affect their performance.

It might then be telling that Google specifically mentioned latency and data throughput at the opening of Android Avenue at MWC this year, in relation to the looming launch of 5G networks. Once those problems are solved, they said, they wanted to see what developers could come up with.

Might Project Yeti end up launching as bleeding-edge 5G gaming hardware? This seems a stretch – it would surely limit the adoption of the system. Consumers – especially in Australia where we have a very public debate going on about the quality of our Internet services – are simply unlikely to have good experience streaming some games unless something significantly changes in the hardware:network:software balance.

With a little under a week to go until Google’s GDC presentation, we’re certainly interested to see what they’re planning to offer.

Jason Murray   Assistant Editor

Jason Murray

Before discovering the Nexus One, Jason thought he didn't need a smartphone. Now he can't bear to be without his Android phone. Jason hails from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane depending on his mood and how detailed a history you'd like. A web developer by day with an interest in consumer gadgets and electronics, he also enjoys reading comics and has a worryingly large collection of Transformers figures. He'd like to think he's a gamer, but his Wii has been in a box since he moved to Sydney, and his PlayStation Vita collection is quite lacking. Most mornings you'll find him tilting at various windmills on Twitter - follow @JM77 and say hi!

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