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The scariest words for an entrepreneur to hear are probably something like, "Big news: Google is getting into your business."

Maybe you can replace "Google" with "Amazon" or "Microsoft," or a few other giant companies. But Google's the one at hand, as it's about to unveil a years-long effort to attack a $140 billion industry: video games.

The official announcement should come tomorrow during Google's presentation at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco. It's both widely anticipated and inevitable, given that Google has been hinting for years that it would do this.

The exact details of Google's plan to take on rivals like Amazon (which owns Twitch), Facebook (which owns Oculus), and Microsoft (which has the Xbox) are still secret. But many observers expect Google's entry into the market to be:

  • Cloud-based. Google has reportedly been working on a cloud-based streaming game service, internally called Project Yeti. The whole problem with streaming games has been that they use immense amounts of data and bandwidth. So if Google has made as much progress here as some people hope, it would be significant.
  • A hardware component. There's not much to go on here, but Nick Statt, who wrote about this for The Verge, had some fascinating tea-leaf-reading: the fact that Rick Osterloh, who is Google's head of hardware and senior vice president of devices, tweeted a link promoting Google's GDC presentation. Why would the guy in charge of Google devices hype the link, if there wasn't a device involved?
  • A separate controller. More smart tea-leaf-reading here: a patent that Google got on January 31 for a next-generation video game controller that sounds like it's designed for streaming games. 

If Google lives up to the hype, it could be about to launch the equivalent of a "Netflix for video games," in the words of one observer, which could truly upend the entire market. But quite a few analysts think it will be almost impossible for Google to pull this off, given the complexities and the strength of its competition. 

And, it's worth keeping in mind that giant, cash-rich tech companies don't always succeed, even when they bring all their resources to bear. (Remember Google+, which was supposedly going to destroy Facebook when it first debuted, but never caught on and will shut down officially next month?)

This is how markets mature, however. Eventually every large company in the field has to give it a shot; otherwise there are billions of dollars just left on the table. I'll be watching at 1 p.m. Eastern time tomorrow, as Google finally unveils its plans.

Here's what else I'm reading today:

Published on: Mar 18, 2019
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