SONY, MICROSOFT and Nintendo could soon have yet another console rival to contend with. No, SEGA aren’t making another Dreamcast, this time it’s Google on the frontfoot.
Google is about to enter the video games war, experts believe.
The search engine giant is already battling Amazon in a war over voice-assisted speakers, Apple in the iOS versus Android Pixel phone saga and laptop rivals with its Pixelbook device.
But industry insiders now believe the mega firm is going to announce a big foray into gaming. And that could even lead to a Googlebox console machine.
The company raised eyebrows this week after hiring games industry veteran Phil Harrison. He’s taking up the role of vice president and general manager at the internet beast’s California headquarters.
Harrison is best known for a 15-year tenure as head of Sony’s network of game studios. He was vital to the development of the PlayStation console brand. In addition he also spent three years as a senior executive at Microsoft’s Xbox team. So he knows more than a bit about gaming.
Harrison recently announced on Twitter: “Excited to be able to share that today I’ve started a new role as Vice President and GM of Google – and relocating (back) to California.”
And industry experts now believe, with the Game Developers Conference just around the corner, that Google is secretly planning to unveil a new gaming division to rival Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo.
Highly respected tech journalist Dean Takahashi, of Venturebeat, said:
“I think that it’s a good time to start speculating about what’s coming in the future, and a number of people I know in the game industry are already doing that.
“Harrison is the sort of figure who could marshal Google’s resources and enable it to enter the game console business.
“I don’t know if that is happening, but that would be a delightful rumor to try to confirm.
“I interviewed Harrison last year at the Gamelab event in Spain. Since he was on the sidelines of the console wars, he wasn’t shy about sharing his opinions on what was happening in the competition among the major game platform companies.
“When I asked him about the broader game platform companies — like Amazon, Google, and Apple — Harrison said, ‘I’m excited about the future. I’m enormously bullish about the future of games, mainly because now we don’t have to explain what this is anymore. There’s an understanding of games among the wider population’.”
Harrison has gushed about how well both Xbox and PlayStation have done in recent years.
He said: ” If Microsoft’s Xbox business was a standalone business, only focused on games, that would be an incredible business.
“They do an incredible job, but they don’t show up that often on the scorecard.”
And of Sony’s PS4 machine he added: “The thing Sony has done incredibly well over many years is build up a very powerful distribution network outside of the U.S. and the U.K.
“I don’t think people truly understand how powerful that is and how much effort it’s taken.
“It’s a powerful game console, no ambiguity. That’s what they tried to sell. Microsoft had a more challenged message at the beginning (with the Xbox One console).
They’ve acknowledged that themselves. But I think Microsoft has made a fantastic recovery.”
He added: “It’s still to play for.”
Google has yet to reveal the specific project that he’s working on, but considering Harrison is best known for managing large scale projects at game studios, it’s possible he’ll be working on a substantially sized project for Google, potentially in gaming.
Colin Campbell, at Polygon, said:
“It’s likely to be a meaty, games-related project. Harrison’s field of experience is coordinating game studios and strategies for gaming platforms.”
Google isn’t known for its games prowess, but have a keen investment in mobile games with their Android platform as well as browser games which are played through the company’s search page.
To celebrate Christmas, Google made a PUBG-inspired survival game that saw players come together to pelt each other with snowballs.
The company hosted a Google Developer Day at GDC last year, and has also been keen to get VR games on Android-based VR platform Daydream, which launched in 2016.