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Google GDC keynote: watch it here

‘Gather around’ for Google’s big jump into gaming

Google is making a big splash at the annual Game Developers Conference today. The company plans to make a major gaming-related announcement at its GDC 2019 keynote on Tuesday, March 19. The event kicks off at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET, and you can watch it live on YouTube.

Today’s keynote will offer what Google calls its “vision for the future of gaming.” Whatever it’s working on, it’s clear that streaming — specifically cloud-based gaming — will be a big part of it. Google unveiled Project Stream last year, a tech demo that made it possible to stream Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey through a Google Chrome browser. That demo was an impressive proof of concept, and showed that Google can realistically stream AAA video games over the internet, without the need for a dedicated console or high-end consumer hardware.

But Google is also reportedly working on some sort of hardware component for its gaming initiative. The Information reported last year that Google was developing “a subscription-based game streaming service that could work either on Google’s Chromecast or possibly a Google-made console.”

At GDC, Google is signaling that some sort of console-like hardware will be on hand. Outside of the convention center, the company set up a mini outdoor museum with a handful of consoles (Sega Dreamcast, Atari Pong) and gaming peripherals (NES Power Glove, Game Boy) next to a display featuring what appears to be a logo for the new gaming initiative. Google has also filed a patent for its own video game controller, albeit a rather basic-looking gamepad.

Google has recently made some big hiring moves to bolster in-house game development. Over the past few years, the company has hired former Xbox and PlayStation executive Phil Harrison; former Ubisoft and EA studio head Jade Raymond; former PlayStation hardware research fellow Richard Marks; and former PlayStation Home and PlayStation Now director Jack Buser.

Whatever Google has planned, it’s entering an increasingly crowded streaming gaming market: Microsoft plans to give consumers a taste of its cloud gaming platform, dubbed Project xCloud, later this year; Valve recently upgraded its Steam Link platform to allow streaming of Steam games over the internet; and Amazon is also reportedly trying to get into the cloud gaming space.

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