THE MEMING OF LIFE

SÉAMAS O’REILLY

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - THE MEMING OF LIFE -

This week, Google con­tin­ued to pur­sue ev­ery last drop of our in­ter­net use by an­nounc­ing a soon-to-be-playable ver­sion of As­sas­sin’s Creed: Odyssey, one that can be played di­rectly in Google Chrome, with­out buy­ing a games con­sole or a dizzy­ingly ex­pen­sive PC rig.

When con­sid­er­ing browser games, most might think of canny lit­tle flash larks you might play at lunchtime; in­ge­nious, witty but not ex­actly high spec and clearly not what the browser was de­signed to do. A lit­tle like the gam­ing equiv­a­lent of turn­ing your cal­cu­la­tor up­side down to spell rude words. Play­ing an AAA ti­tle in your browser, with­out any gam­ing hard­ware at all, would be a gen­uinely mile­stone for the in­ter­net.

Google has squared off cor­ners of the gam­ing mar­ket through its VR and Chrome ap­pli­ca­tions, but this is the first time it’s stepped into what could be the holy grail for in­ter­net providers. Project Stream aims to do the pro­cess­ing for you on its own suite of servers, re­lay­ing your con­trols to the game and back in real time so long as you have, so they say, a work­ing key­board and a good enough in­ter­net connection to stream Net­flix.

At the mo­ment, the trial will only be open to se­lect gamers. And the like­li­hood is that lag will con­tinue to be a sig­nif­i­cant draw­back for peo­ple with­out the kind of in­ter­net connection you’d have at a com­puter science lab­o­ra­tory. To take a com­par­i­son, the in­puts for Net­flix stream­ing are sig­nif­i­cantly less la­bo­ri­ous than op­er­a­tions of this mag­ni­tude. And even that ser­vice still car­ries some lag, al­beit un­no­ticed in the process of click­ing and se­lect­ing a movie. The task for Google might be com­pared to se­lect­ing a new Net­flix movie to watch ev­ery quar­ter of a se­cond. As such, Google’s choice to go with a game as heavy on pro­ces­sor power as Odyssey makes this a state­ment of in­tent from the search en­gine mavens.

Google’s mo­tives are easy enough to grasp. In 2007, world­wide spend on games was about $35 bil­lion, al­ready enough to out­pace global film box of­fice at that time. Ten years later, and cin­ema tak­ings world­wide to­tal a whop­ping $39.92 bil­lion (¤28.61 bil­lion), an all-time record for the busi­ness. Gam­ing’s to­tal for this year is $137 bil­lion and is ex­pected to pass $180 bil­lion by 2021, ac­cord­ing to in­dus­try an­a­lysts New­zoo.

It is an in­dus­try that out­paces cin­ema grosses by more than 300 per cent and ex­pects to hit 400 per cent in the next three years. Per­haps it’s more ob­vi­ous why Google is go­ing all in on a busi­ness model that could make game de­vel­op­ers sali­vate and hard­ware com­pa­nies sweat.

If the oft-men­tioned creed of the tit­u­lar as­sas­sins is some­thing like “make a killing any­way and any­how”, one senses Google has been obey­ing it all along.

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