OP: Pixel handheld could start Android gaming revolution


Over the past few years, Google has adopted an interesting, but scattered, gaming strategy. I think a portable device dedicated to Android gaming might be just what Google needs to unify its gaming ambitions.

Google and games

Right now, like Google, Google is pursuing two different avenues to reach the gamer market. On the one hand, you have the seasoned market for Android games. While it’s easy to cite a few examples and suggest that all mobile games are filled with ads, simultaneously there is a glut of great indie and big budget games playable on Android.

Whichever side of the mobile gaming spectrum you find yourself on, Google is pushing for more ways to enjoy your favorite titles everywhere and discovery opportunities to find new favorites. Thanks to the upcoming Google Play Games app for PC, you should be able to easily switch from reading on your phone / tablet to a Windows computer. Meanwhile, the Google Play Pass subscription unlocks a plethora of Android games without having to incur the full purchase price for a game.

On the other hand, you have Stadia, Google’s beleaguered service that can play AAA games on almost any device. While the service doesn’t seek out exclusive games like it once was, it’s clear that Google has an interest in attracting the “hardcore” gamer – or maybe even introducing more of the cross between mobile and “hardcore” games. .

The common thread between Google’s gaming ambitions is Android. Most of the best mobile games are playable on Android (the main exceptions being the Apple Arcade exclusives), as are bigger budget games through cloud gaming services like Stadia and GeForce Now. Judging by the company’s recently leaked Games Future presentation, Google wants to be an active part of gaming in the future, with Android at the center.

Earlier this year, Android 12 introduced a Gaming Dashboard (new to the Pixel 6), which gives gamers fast access to YouTube Live streaming, a frame-per-second counter, and game-specific and game-specific optimizations. the device. Developers can now improve how their games work on specific devices as they see fit.

Google’s next gaming push?

Given Google’s recent pushes into games, I believe there is an opportunity for the company to introduce a dedicated gaming handheld. Not just a Pixel phone with a controller connected, but something closer to the Nintendo Switch or the Steam Deck that runs Android under the hood. If done right, it could inspire other brands to make competing Android gaming handhelds.

One of the issues with Stadia was (or maybe still is) that as a new platform from a company with no existing influence in the gaming community, games had to be specially developed for Stadia. By comparison, Android has a huge library of existing games in the Play Store, ready to boot a new handheld. Google Play Pass is even already established as a loose competitor to Xbox Game Pass.

On the other hand, a Made by Google gaming handheld would also be a great device to play Stadia games on. The Stadia experience on Android has really gotten stronger over the past year, especially with the addition of voice and group chat, a feature that has long been missing.

What a Google handheld could do

So what could a Made by Google or Pixel gaming handheld look like? Well, between Stadia’s controller-centric approach and wanting to bring Play Games to Windows (i.e. keyboard or controller focus), it’s pretty clear that Google isn’t prioritizing touch games. So while a handheld would likely still have a touchscreen, the focus would likely be on using a controller.

That said, considering how many games on Android are played in portrait mode instead of landscape, Google’s gaming handheld would likely need to have detachable controllers to make it less difficult to hold vertically. In fact, we’ve already seen signs of Google preparing detachable game controllers for Android thanks to a graphic in Games Future’s presentation. Like the Nintendo Switch, this would also make it possible to replace controllers and even play wirelessly.

To that end, to be competitive with the Nintendo Switch, Steam Deck, and even Qualcomm’s new development kit, a Made by Google gaming handheld would also need to be able to “dock” and connect to a TV. This would be a significant change from today’s Pixel lineup, which until now has always disabled all HDMI output capabilities from the USB-C port.

What Android was meant to be

One of Android’s ambitions was for multiple companies to offer mobile devices using the same base operating system, with each company using their own settings. While things have diminished a bit in recent years, there is still healthy competition between Samsung, OnePlus, Motorola, Xiaomi, and others. With the Nexus and Pixel lines, Google has determined what Android phones – and, at one point, tablets – should be, pushing other companies to make more competitive devices for customers.

Likewise, dedicated Android gaming devices have been around for years, with memorable examples like the Sony Xperia Play, the original Nvidia Shield laptop, and the Ouya console. Not to mention the wealth of Android gaming devices from lesser-known OEMs and startups. More recently, Qualcomm even stepped into the ring with the Snapdragon G3x handheld game development kit, designed with Razer.

Gaming could very well be the next big frontier for Android, with more and more companies entering the fray. Until now, the gaming industry has been centered around a few hardware companies like Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. With Android, more companies could enter the game console market, all sharing a common game library through the Google Play Store and cloud services. And following the model of the Pixel line, a Made by Google gaming handheld could serve as a showcase for what Android games should be.

Put simply, if Google can recapture the magic of the Nintendo Switch – a task that many companies are now trying their hand at – combined with the existing wealth of native Android games and cloud streaming services, other companies would follow suit without it. no doubt. Even if Google’s own hardware never quite takes off, but other companies succeed instead, it could still make Android a major gaming platform, which would be a big win for Google.

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