A screenshot from Google's Project Stream service. Google

Project Stream may be Google’s next big business endeavor, despite the fact it might look like it is a bit late to the market due to the existence of services like Gamefly, Nvidia GeForce Now, and PlayStation Now (just to name a few). Of course, in the past, the company has been late to the game in several markets. It wasn’t the first to bring internet search to the public, but Google certainly dominates that market. It wasn’t the first to release a web browser, but Chrome now is the leading browser on both PC and mobile. Of course, Android is now the leading mobile operating system, blowing away nearly all of the competition, with the exception of iOS.

Now Google is dipping its toes into a market that so far has yet to yield huge results: game streaming. Project Stream, which officially launched Oct. 5 for a handful of invited users, will offer a way to stream high-quality games on laptops, desktop PCs, and Chromebooks with the Chrome browser. The game those lucky few testers will be able to play on Project Stream is Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, the latest entry in Ubisoft’s popular action series. The test begins the same day Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey officially releases on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.

Let’s have a look at how Project Stream will bring games normally requiring high-end PC hardware to low-end systems. Here’s everything we know about it, along with a bit of speculation from us about how this could turn Google into a major player in the games industry.

Read more: Here’s why Google should launch a game streaming service

Yeti and more previous rumors about Project Stream

Phil Harrison

Rumors about Google’s plans for a game streaming service started earlier in 2018. In January, Phil Harrison joined the company’s hardware division as a Vice President and General Manager. Harrison previously worked at Sony’s PlayStation division, where he became the head of Sony Worldwide Studios. More recently, he was the European head of Microsoft’s Xbox division. Harrison’s hire by Google started people thinking the company was planning to enter the gaming space in a big way.

In February, The Information reported Google was working on a project with the code name “Yeti.” The team behind it was reportedly working on a game streaming service. In June, Kotaku reported Google had held meetings with game developers and companies at both the Game Developers Conference and the E3 video game trade show. It added Google was working on some kind of dedicated hardware for Yeti. Finally, it suggested Google might actually acquire game developers to help support this service. 

Both publications’ sources were kept private, and we still don’t know many specific details about “Yeti.” Even the official Project Stream announcement had scant technical details about what’s behind its technology, and more importantly what Google’s plans are for the service after the Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey test.

Project Stream – The test with Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

Project Stream officially begins Oct. 5. In its blog post announcing the test, Google also posted a video showing what it claims was gameplay from Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, captured on the Chrome browser via the streaming service, at 1080p resolution and 60fps. As we mentioned earlier, Google hasn’t talked about the specific technical details of how this is accomplished with Ubisoft’s game. At this point, the company is only saying people who will use this service expect “streaming high-quality games requires latency measured in milliseconds, with no graphic degradation.”

We can speculate, however, that Project Stream works in a similar way to other game streaming services. The heavy lifting of handling the graphics, AI, and other systems is done remotely on a server at Google. Project Stream players will likely connect to those servers and stream Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey to their Chrome browsers.

In the support FAQ page for Project Stream, Google says you will not only need a standard Google account to participate in the test but also a Ubisoft account. Of course, you will need the latest version of the Chrome browser for the PC. While this test won’t work on the mobile versions of Chrome, it will work on the Chrome browsers for Windows, Mac, Linux and even ChromeOS-based devices. Yes, if you own a low-priced Chromebook, you could be picked to test Project Stream.

Users must also be in the U.S. and 17 or older (Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey is an M-rated game). Finally, the internet connection for testers must be 25 Mbps or higher. If you qualify for all of those requirements, you can sign up for the Project Stream test at the link below.

While Project Stream also requires a keyboard to control Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, the FAQ page says testers can also hook up wired game controllers to play as well, like the PlayStation DualShock 4 controller, and Microsoft’s Xbox One and Xbox 360 controllers. Wireless-only gamepads are not supported by this test. A PC mouse can also be used to control the game, but if you are using a laptop or Chromebook, using its trackpad is not recommended.

Google has not stated just how many testers it plans to invite for Project Stream. If you get an invite, you will be emailed a special code to let you start playing. Google says the test with Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey will last for those invited users until sometime in January 2019. Playing the game on Project Stream will be free for those testers, but once the test is over, not only will you not be able to play the game anymore, but all of your saved progress and achievements in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey will disappear. That means you will have to start over if you play the game again on your console or PC.

The future of Project Stream and game streaming

Google has been keeping its plans for Project Stream beyond this testing phase close to the chest. It has not officially announced any of its plans to expand this service to include more games. More importantly, it has not offered any info on what it might charge for a full-fledged Project Stream service. It’s highly likely Google will give this service a different name if and when it launches — “Project Stream” sounds very much like a placeholder.

So far, the two biggest names in game streaming are Sony and NVIDIA. Sony’s PlayStation Now service launched in 2015, and streams PS4 and PS3 games to Windows PCs and the PS4 console. Players can rent individual games to stream on PlayStation Now, or subscribe to the service to gain access to all of the 600 available games for a monthly fee. Meanwhile, NVIDIA’s GeForce Now also streams a number of PC games to its AndroidTV-based Shield TV set-top boxes and its Android-based Shield tablets. It has been running a closed beta of the same service for Windows and Mac PCs for some time.

Electronic Arts

At E3 2018 in Los Angeles, both Microsoft and Electronic Arts announced they were also developing new game streaming services. Both indicated the services would not only target console and PC gamers but smartphone owners as well. So far, neither company has revealed any specifics on their game streaming plans.

With Google officially launching Project Stream with this test, streaming could become one of the biggest game industry trends in 2019, especially if both Microsoft and EA also launch services next year. It remains to be seen if high-end console and PC gamers will ditch their disks and full game downloads and embrace streaming.

That’s all we know about Google’s Project Stream at the moment. We will be constantly updating this post with more information as soon as it becomes available. What do you think of Google’s plans for Project Stream? Will it be successful, or will it fall by the wayside as just another Google “test” project?