Google’s Stadia announcement arrived with a Google Assistant angle. The dedicated button on the Stadia controller immediately indicated that it might become an integral part of gameplay. At Google Developer Conference in 2019, Phil Harrison introduced Stadia and commented on Google Assistant saying:
“Pressing [the Google Assistant] button allows players to immediately access the controller’s built-in microphone so they can get help from the Assistant for special in-game features integrated by developers.”
So far, that has not been the case. The only use to date has been to launch games using your voice. Android Police discovered today that you can now access common Google Assistant features such as asking general questions and about the weather when operated on smart TVs using Chromecast Ultra. It is similar to using Google Assistant via a smart speaker but you apparently cannot access music or other media.
Adding the Voice Dimension to Gaming
Gamers long-ago discovered the value of adding voice to gameplay. That was particularly useful in cooperative games where a voice connection enabled players to more easily coordinate their actions to achieve a common goal. More recently, game makers have been exploring how an embedded voice-activated assistant within a game or as an external complement can enhance play. Activision launched an Alexa skill in 2017 for Destiny 2 Ghost that was integrated into the game. Players can get recommendations, take actions and connect with friends. It has over 1,100 reviews and a 4-star rating on Amazon. Interestingly, the Call of Duty coach on Alexa seems to no longer be available in the skill store but the Destiny 2 solution appears to be popular.
This in-game integration is precisely what Google is looking for to tie more daily activities into Assistant use. The integration with smart TVs is a small step now, but it points to some progress on behalf of Google. The next step is likely for game makers to integrate Google Assistant into gameplay and the lead time for that is surly much longer than simply launching a game from the Stadia home screen.
This general direction follows the premise explored in this week’s Voice Insider Think Tank essay. Voice will be an above-average feature upgrade for many existing applications. Expect to see more of this in the coming months.