Google is offering a limited number of gamers the chance to play popular video game Assassin’s Creed Odyssey free of charge via its Chrome browser.
In a blogpost outlining its plans for Project Stream, the search engine said it wanted to take streaming to “the next level”.
But it admitted there were technical challenges involved in streaming graphically rich content via a browser.
One expert said it was a bold move from Google to grab gaming revenue.
According to analyst company IHS Markit, global spending on games content and services is expected to reach $129bn (£99bn) this year, making it the world’s biggest entertainment market.
While that could represent rich pickings for Google, it does not underestimate the size of the challenge.
Writing about Project Stream, Google’s product manager, Catherine Hsiao, said: “The technology and creativity behind these AAA [major] video games is extraordinary – from incredible detail and lifelike movement of the characters’ skin, clothing, and hair, to the massive scale of the world in which the game unfolds, down to every last blade of grass.
“Every pixel is powered by an array of real-time rendering technology, artistry, visual effects, animation, simulation, physics and dynamics.
“We’re inspired by the game creators who spend years crafting these amazing worlds, adventures and experiences. And we’re building technology that we hope will support and empower that creativity.”
IHS Markit’s director of games research, Piers Harding-Rolls, said it was an obvious next move for the search giant.
“One area of the market that has yet to have been majorly disrupted and is still dominated by three incumbents is the TV console market,” he said.
“Google believes it can disrupt this part of the market and force a way into the value chain.
“There are lots of other Google products and initiatives that align with cloud gaming – Google Cloud, Daydream VR, ARCore, Android, Android TV, Chrome, Chromecast – the list is really quite long, so it looks like a good strategic fit.”
But, he added, challenges remained, including:
- the requirement for high-speed broadband
- the need to be close to data centres
- the cost of streaming and infrastructure to the operator
- the availability of content
Games hardware companies such as Sony and Microsoft are already working on streaming services, with Sony offering PlayStation Now and Microsoft looking to partner AMD and make use of its cloud capability.
The Project Stream trial is open to gamers, aged 17 or older, in the US. There will be no charges for the duration of the test.