It is believed that Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo could soon have another competitor in the home console market. No, we are not expecting a massive resurgence from Atari! Surprisingly, it’s actually Google who is believed to be entering this space in the not-too-distant future.
Google’s hiring of games industry veteran Phil Harrison last week has raised eyebrows among industry analysts. Best known for his 15-years working as head of Sony’s game studios network, Harrison was instrumental in developing the PlayStation brand. He also worked as a senior executive for Microsoft’s Xbox division. He certainly knows a thing or two about gaming!
Harrison announced his move publicly on Twitter last Monday:
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.
— Phil Harrison (@MrPhilHarrison) January 22, 2018
Such a move almost certainly indicates that Google has some big plans. Given Harrison’s past experience, it’s not much of a leap to presume that these plans will likely involve gaming.
It could be that Google are simply looking to improve their existing offerings on Android and Chrome OS. However, many industry insiders believe it likely that Google’s ambitions are somewhat larger. The Game Developers Conference (GDC) is just around the corner and some have suggested that Google could even announce a new whole new gaming division at this event.
Colin Campbell, at Polygon, reckons “it’s likely to be a meaty, games-related project. Harrison’s field of experience is coordinating game studios and strategies for gaming platforms.”
Meanwhile, Dean Takahashi (of Venturebeat), had the following to say about the hiring:
“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 rumour to try to confirm.”
If Google do develop a new console, one would imagine that it will likely utilise Android at its core (possibly Android TV). This might also be why Google is yet to launch a refresh of the Nexus Player. Perhaps they’ve taken inspiration from Nvidia’s SHIELD boxes and want to take that concept but step it up a gear.
Of course, it’s still also possible that Google hired Harrison for something else entirely. Harrison has also shown a particular interest in AR. In an interview with Eurogamer, Harrison said that “more of the world is going to be interested in a mixed reality: an augmented reality where you can still see, you can still hear, you can still interact with real people, but it’s augmented with additional data. That is the end goal.” We know already that AR is an area Google is keen to explore as we have seen with Google Glass, Project Tango and most recently ARCore.
At present, this all still just speculation. That said, it does seem that Google is up to something here. Regardless of what it is that Google has planned, it is likely we won’t have too long to wait before we hear something. If not at GDC in March, then perhaps at Google I/O in May. Either way, we’ll wait with anticipation and keep you updated if any new details arise.