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GDC 2019: Big Names Target Streaming, VR for Mainstream Gaming Push

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  March 18th, 2019  By Brett Benningfield

The 2019 Game Developers Conference starts up this week. Traditionally one of the more obscure and technical conferences of the gaming industry, GDC 2019 is shaping up to deliver some of the biggest gaming announcements of the year.

Usually a five-day conference for developers, artists, marketers, and others involved with creating commercial video games, GDC 2019 has more non-traditional companies looking to stake their claim in the gaming industry. This year’s lineup includes some big players in the larger tech industry, like Amazon, Facebook, and, most surprisingly, Google. All three are expected to make a showing with announcements revolving around cloud-based game streaming, VR, and more.

Google Crashes the Game Scene

One of the most exciting pieces of news this week is the much-anticipated look at Google’s cloud-based streaming option, known colloquially as Project Stream. In October 2018 Google let a select few preview Project Stream, by allowing users to play “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey” from their Chrome browsers. On its face, getting a triple-A title noted for its graphical fidelity to run on a web browser seems like a daunting task. However the initial impressions were fairly positive, with Kotaku’s Jason Schreier saying “Short version is, this is incredible technology.”

Screenshot: Google

Microsoft, Amazon Have Some Streaming News of Their Own

Microsoft and Amazon are also expected to announce more of their own game streaming platforms, Microsoft’s xCloud and Amazon’s still-unnamed service. Essentially, video games are about to become way more accessible. The hope behind these technologies is to lower gaming’s barrier of entry, giving more players the opportunity to experience these worlds. Whether that means the hardcore gamer getting their “Call of Duty” fix on a tablet or your grandparents playing “Candy Crush Saga” on the television, this could potentially upend the traditional gaming landscape.

Representatives from Amazon Game Studios are also giving a presentation titled “Building Computationally-Ridiculous Games in the Cloud.” A title like that indicates Amazon is running to make a big play with its game-streaming platform, even if the details aren’t too clear at the moment. After the cancellation of Amazon’s own game “Breakaway” last year, it seems the company has been back at the drawing board looking for a better solution to make a splash in the gaming industry.

Microsoft, a regular at GDC, is also joining in on the fun, with arguably some of the most anticipated announcements of the week. First, there is the rumored “Xbox One S All Digital Edition,” which seems like a simple idea, despite its mouthful of a name. This new Xbox One will be a revised edition of the Xbox One S, but with one major feature missing: a disc drive. This device seems to be built on two notions — that digital games are growing and that Xbox is planning for that future. Xbox already offers a “Netflix of games” service, Xbox Game Pass, which gives users access to 200-plus games for a monthly subscription fee. This is expected to be the last model of the Xbox One for the current hardware generation, giving stragglers a chance to experience hundreds of great games at a low cost.

Image: Microsoft

Even more interesting are the rumblings around Xbox’s Game Pass, with Head of Xbox Phil Spencer claiming “it will come to PC, and eventually it will come to every device.” If this is the case, Xbox will no longer just simply be a family of devices, but a whole gaming ecosystem unto itself. In tandem with xCloud, this could mark an industry leader going into uncharted territory; GDC 2019 may be our first look at Xbox’s future plans to expand outside of its consumer base to tap into anyone who wants to get a slice of the action. More details will be shared at Microsoft’s event, which focuses on the potential of xCloud & Xbox games on mobile devices.

Facebook Looks Toward the Future with Virtual Reality

Other exciting developments are also happening in the world of VR, with Facebook-owned Oculus expected to deliver new demos for its Quest and Rift headsets. After a positive reception with the Oculus Go, one of the first “consumer-centric” VR headsets, enthusiasts have been waiting to see what’s next for Oculus. Reports based on internal emails suggest that a new headset called the “Rift S” is scheduled to be revealed at GDC. In a blog post, Oculus said they “may just have an announcement or two up our sleeves…” leading many to speculate a new headset is on the way.

All in all, GDC 2019 is aiming to grab the attention of both gamers and consumers at large, showcasing the newest ways VR and cloud-based game streaming could manifest in the mainstream. We’re holding our breath waiting to see if we truly are on the precipice of new consumer-centric, mainstream options for interactive entertainment. Stay tuned to — we’ll be keeping a close eye all week and highlighting the latest and greatest from GDC 2019.

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