Google. Gaming. Us.

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Google just announced its move into gaming with Stadia streaming gaming platform. Here’s why this move is essential for Google’s future…and ours.

As I wrote in Deconstructing Google’s Strategy in 2013, one of the 4E’s of Google’s strategy is to Expand TIME.

3. Expand the Pie – This is probably the least understood part of Google’s strategy. Google knows its hard to find new customers and compete with every new service. So it does something I spent a lot of time promoting at MasterCard and American Express – expand the pie. In my case, it meant, promoting conversion from cash and checks to digital transactions, regardless of platform. With a bigger pie, everyone’s slice gets bigger. In Google’s case, that means expanding leisure time. That’s right, Google wants to make time. Google knows if you’re online and near a screen or smart device, they’ll be making money.

The two best examples of this are Glass and self-driving cars. With Glass,  Google wants to sit on your face – literally. Their glasses can deliver digital stimulation at times previously wasted pretending to care about the people around you. Smart cars liberate you from your fear of crushing skunks and navigating New Jersey. Now you can research stocks, listen to Google music, and work on Google Docs.

As we automate, we unlock leisure time. Coupled with the inevitable redistribution of wealth, the leisure time explosion will reach nearly everyone. Much of that time will be spent consuming entertainment – everything from Netflix to food to drugs. A big chunk of it will be spent in the virtual world. Let’s call it “gaming”…for now.

Casual gaming on smartphones is already infiltrating moments that used to feature reading or silent contemplation – subways, boring family dinners, and toilets worldwide. Once AI does the driving, another new chunk of time will pour into gaming. And once VR gear stops looking like you’re trying to stay celibate for eternity, it’ll become socially acceptable to play more engrossing games.

Google wants NEEDS to own that time. It’s time people no longer use to read blogs, click on display ads, or interact with their phones.

The way to do that is to own the real estate (aka the platform). Already, Google controls the majority of mobile device computing with Android. It’s also seeded schools and businesses with cheap Chromebooks – and every other computer with its Chrome browser. Now, it takes those assets one level deeper – into the virtual world.

Just like developers pay Google 30% of app sales in the Play Store, they’ll pay a piece of game revenues to the Stadia platform. But more important – to advertise or sell real and virtual goods in stores built on their virtual property. You’ll see a lot of inescapable “billboards” or ads that no adblocker will be able to touch.

That shift to The Matrix is already happening as bands like Weezer debut albums and DJ Marshmello perform concerts inside games like Fortnite.

Make no mistake – this move is a play for our virtual existence, cloaked behind the fun, carefree veneer of gaming.

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Provocative predictions & prescriptions on where innovation, economics & culture will take us. Fearless. Funny.