In much the same way as Google changed email, maps and online video, the search giant now has its eye on the video game industry.
In its first-ever Game Developers' Conference keynote on Tuesday, Google announced "Stadia," a service that aims to eliminate physical gaming consoles and PCs, replacing them with specially-designed game servers housed in data centers.
"Game streaming is one of the most technically challenging advances in computer science, and that's why Google loves these kinds of hard problems to solve," said Google VP Phil Harrison, Stadia's general manager.
It's a problem nearly every big company in the game industry is trying to solve, and one many smaller companies have failed at.
"A lot of people have lost money trying to make it work," said CNET News editor-at-large Ian Sherr.
The challenge every game streaming effort has faced is latency — the delay from the time you press a button on a controller until the character on screen reacts. Viewers won't often notice a long delay while streaming video, but any delay at all when controlling a game can affect the outcome. Google claims its vast network of data centers and its relationships with internet service providers have helped it get the latency from seconds down to milliseconds, with a smooth 60fps frame rate.
"We can compress, transport and decompress video into your browser, actually quicker than your eye and brain and finger," Harrison said, adding that Google's new Stadia controller — an optional accessory — can bypass your computer, talking directly to the game in the cloud over your home wifi, to cut the delay even further.
Google publicly tested an early version of the technology during 2018's Project Stream, allowing gamers to play Assassin's Creed Odyssey for free online. That will be one of the games available when Stadia launches later this year, and so will Doom Eternal — a shooting game known for testing the limits of even the best graphics cards.
Google has not yet set pricing for Stadia, and Sherr says he's waiting to see how it performs under less-than-ideal network conditions, like his own home WiFi.
"I think that over time, this is going to be the future of how we all play video games," he said. "The question is going to be when."