What Google Chromecast Means for Gaming

The device allows for easy, portable streaming of all sorts of media. So, why not gaming?

Google’s ventures outside the realm of search engines tend to go splendidly for both company and consumer alike… usually. Even their purported failures like Google+ have managed to become huge successes (it’s even become the second biggest social networking site with over 500 million users).

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So when Google released their new streaming dongle last week, at a stunning price tag of $35, it was no surprise that it’s received praise across the board. Especially as the product receive no hype (or even an announcement) before its release. It’s a great little tool for getting easy access to both online and local media, but what about games?

The Software

The Chromecast’s software development kit (SDK) is still in beta, but the future is looking bright. To begin with, Chromecast plugs into any HDMI slot and provides streaming services for local and online media. That includes any downloaded or torrented media on your computer, as well as Netflix, YouTube, and Google Play. Already, plans have been announced to feature additional apps like Pandora, Hulu, HBO Go and more.

You can even stream your desktop out over the internet live, including anything that runs in Chrome’s browser. This should serve as an easy way to get a great number of smaller and less graphically intensive games to run via stream. Who knows what might be possible as developers start to dig in and find out what is possible with this device.

So, we’ve got music, movies and TV. But why not games? Although no official apps have been announced (c’mon, Valve!), there’s already a Game Boy emulator and a NES emulator for the device, courtesy of Redditor Brraains. There are some cloud gaming companies in existence already such as Gaikai (recently purchased by Sony) and OnLive, but the localized and cheaper solution that is Chromecast has a promising future in store for gamers.

 The Hardware

First things first, what games? Well, given the streaming capabilities, seeing streamable versions of PC gaming platforms like Steam or Origin are high on the list of many developers, corporate or independent. The size, quality or hardware requirements of games shouldn’t really come into play. No game could run off of the device directly, it’s not meant for such a thing. That said, players should first be able to run games off their own PC, onto the big screen through Chromecast. Additionally, cloud gaming services could easily be integrated for players without a PC.

Consoles surely won’t get involved, sadly, unless through third-party streaming services which provide access via off-location streams. The Big 3 themselves likely won’t be involved, especially Sony and Microsoft who see Google as a more direct competitor than Nintendo. Valve’s Steam Box surely has its own plans for taking over the markets. Steam’s Big Picture mode would be ideal for use through Chromecast, though the mechanics are yet to be worked out.

Due to the physical limitations of the device, a plug-n-play controller isn’t very likely unless it can be connected to the PC which is streaming the locally run games in the first place. However, the micro USB port (which can provide both power and connection through a normal USB port on the TV) could be used to connect a controller. As it is, Chromecast has users download an app on their smartphone or tablet to use as a controller. The interaction seems to be easy enough for menu navigation, but it won’t be very useful for any games besides RPGs, puzzles or strategy.

Ain’t No Party Like a Third-Party Party

Individual games could easily be introduced in an easy-to-stream package, so long as they come through Chrome on the PC. Hopefully, we’ll see a great push across the industry to allow for streaming games as though it were another platform (“now available on Steam, XBLA and Chromecast’s Gaming Marketplace”). Much of this will largely be left up to third-party developers and publishers.

What will most likely become the first push for games onto Chromecast would be Google’s own Google Play store which features a good array of free and paid games. Most of these are made with the mobile market in mind, and though we’d love to see big titles available to stream, any games are better than no games. At least it would be a start.

The market size of streamed games online has grown exponentially in recent years, largely due to the surge in popularity of eSports. As such, I can’t imagine prime sources like Twitch.tv are very far behind in developing apps for Chromecast. But, as far as the games themselves go, we’ll most likely have to rely on emulators for the time being until some good marketplaces or individual games are ported over.

 


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