In the myriad of reveals stemming from the still–running Apple v. Epic court trial, The Verge has discovered an extensive document pertaining to Google’s supposed plan to gaming domination. The 70–page “need–to–know” document outlines how Google had a vision to become the biggest name in gaming by providing games for every platform and every device out there.
The Nature Of The Paper(s)
The document is titled “Games Futures” and is not written by Google itself. The author credits are “partially funded” and “i have a dream” productions. The document also isn’t very coherent in the sense that it doesn’t appear to be a concrete plan, but more of a concept or vision that still needs to be worked on. Two reasons as to why this document should be taken with a heavy grain of salt.
The document has been severely redacted, but there’s enough information here to give us more than a general idea. Every page of the document is marked with large red text reading “REDACTED VERSION OF DOCUMENT(S) SOUGHT TO BE SEALED” which means the uncensored article should never make it to public. Further confirmation of this notion is brought by “GOOGLE HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL – OUTSIDE COUNSEL EYES ONLY” written in the footer of each page. If you couldn’t tell by now, the article is extremely secretive.
The Gaming Ecosystem Of Tomorrow
In the document, the authors go over a 5–year plan designed to be slowly implemented across devices and platforms to create the “world’s biggest gaming platform“. A ubiquitous place where developers could target players across multiple devices and platforms. The goal was to harmonize the gaming experience across platforms, devices, and “game experiences”. Any game could be played on any screen, anywhere, anytime.
To achieve so, Google wanted to use their services to tie developers and gamers together, and make those games available on Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and other smart devices. Alongside the help of a “low-cost universal portable game controller“, Google wanted to create an ecosystem that allowed players to pair said controller that could be paired to any device including TVs.
This meant that, a game under Google’s gaming ecosystem could be played on multiple devices on multiple platforms with the help of Google services and the universal controller. This is similar to what Google tried to do with Stadia, however that didn’t pan out and Stadia Game Studios were shut down last year in October. Microsoft‘s xCloud is the biggest contemporary example of what Google was trying to create. A single service that works on many devices with many input methods and has tons of games to choose from.
The Deployment and Strategy
The first phase of Google’s vision, according to the document involved bringing “emulated, native, and streamed games to PCs“. Microsoft already plans to do this with Android apps on Windows 11 via the Amazon Appstore which makes this effort quite logical. Perhaps an engineer at Google was just ahead of their time? Also mentioned in the document is how the Play Games brand would pivot and become an “indie game destination”. As you can see in the image below, Android S, aka Android 12, was supposed to play a big role in the ecosystem’s rollout. Android 12 is already here, at least in beta, and 2021 is nearing its end so it’s safe to assume these plans are not gearing into motion anytime soon.
Google Play has countless indie gems so the claim of making it a safe haven for indie games doesn’t sound too unrealistic. On top of this, 100 of the best Android games would be ported over to PC to further fortify the brand as a gaming giant. Google would also enforce controller support across all games and create a strict pricing standard so it could attract “super–premium games” to the new ecosystem. One more thing that people seem to be glancing over is the fact that Google is presenting themselves as a publisher to developers.
As such, there are tons of mentions about monetization, and how this new ecosystem could be used to advertise and sell various microtransactions in–game. Somehow, the entire ecosystem would be linked with YouTube to not only promote events and tournament but allow players to participate or qualify for them as well, similar to consoles. There would be the ability of having fundraisers for your game along with crowdfunding for new projects. Google would also try to upsell elements of the ecosystem in other Google products such as YouTube and Search.
Google exemplifies Epic Gamers Store as “content maker trend example“, Tencent as “full stack example” and Microsoft as “platform trend example“. This shows Google thoroughly researched and studied the current landscape to pick out the most prominent players and their business strategies. Google could’ve wanted to take the best parts from each of these and implement them in their own “largest consumer-facing game platform worldwide, across screens“, as the document puts it.
The document also gives us a look at a revamped Google Play Store, built for the desktop. The Store looks night and day compared to the Chromebook version and appears as a much more polished and mature marketplace with proper gaming features embedded right into the interface. It’s difficult to tell because of the low–resolution, but on the right you can see two distinct blocks. One says “Continue playing” with a list of games installed on your device and the block right beneath says “Install and play again“, these could possible be recommendations or games that you’ve previously tried but aren’t on your device currently.
The “Roadmap 2025” section of the document is largely censored so there’s not much we can get from it, though one very interesting assumption can be made. The document included the Stadia logo when mentioning examples of cloud streaming services. Now, we all know Stadia is essentially dead at this point—the internal game development studio has been closed but it still remains focused on third–party titles. Adding to that, this article is dated October 2020, the exact month Stadia Game Studios were shut down.
So, from this we can tell that maybe Google knew Stadia wasn’t doing wonders for them, or perhaps Stadia was just part of the plan into this gaming ecosystem but it didn’t pan out. Either way, the closure of Stadia could’ve hurt Google’s morale and slowed down development. What I’m trying to say is that Google could still very much be trying to make this dream become a reality, but in a slightly different approach this time. After all, Stadia is still alive as a streaming service, pity no one uses it, though.
Stadia Is Not The End
The full 70–page document is attached below. It’s compiled quite loosely which tells me it wasn’t ready to be shown to anyone but used for only internal development. The document, as mentioned before, has a lot of redaction. That being said, what is there is quite ambitious and it’s entirely possible that this isn’t the last of gaming aspirations we’ve seen from Google.