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Google reportedly exploring game streaming powered by Chromecast

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Could this be the ‘Netflix for games’ we’ve been waiting for?

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Google is looking into developing a game streaming service that would allow it to stream software to a compatible Chromecast device or yet-to-be-released home console, according to a report today from The Information. The new service is codenamed “Yeti,” and it would be comparable to game streaming services like Sony’s PlayStation Now and Nvidia’s GeForce Now. That means users would not download software to a hard drive, but stream the game from a Google server instead. So this planned service is not to be confused with existing game subscription offerings like Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass that let users download unlimited games from a pre-selected pool of titles for a monthly fee.

It’s unclear whether Google would focus solely on streaming Android games to a consumer’s television, as playing Android games on a big screen is already relatively easy to do with existing casting and mirroring technology. Google’s Chromecast can also natively play some mobile-quality party games directly from the device, as can Amazon’s Fire TV and the Apple TV. (Both of those platforms have more robust libraries of TV-centric games than Google.) So instead of an Android-focused service, “Yeti” could be a play for a more serious chunk of the gaming audience looking for a low-cost, low-effort streaming solution for playing games on a TV, but that might require courting developers to make specific titles for the platform.

Of course, Google has toyed with gaming for years, as The Information report points out, and failed to ever make a serious play to compete with Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. The company owns Android and Chromecast — both massively popular, low-cost, and accessible platforms for gaming — and it owns YouTube, the preeminent platform for pre-recorded gaming videos and a growing destination for Twitch-style live-streaming as well. But The Information reports that senior executives at Google have never given gaming projects the required resources and attention to grow, leading to unrealized ideas and disorganization. However, bolstering the prospects for game streaming is Google’s hiring last month of gaming industry veteran Phil Harrison, who’s spent years in the upper ranks of both PlayStation and Xbox. If anyone can get a gaming project at Google off the ground, it’s someone with experience like Harrison.