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MMObility: Google's new Chromecast shows screen size does not matter


If you missed Google's latest press conference, go check it out here or spy on my own cute self as I attempt to explain what was covered during the event. Either way, it was a nice chance to see how dedicated Google is to the mobile lifestyle. I'd argue that this "mobile" lifestyle that I continue to love will not be referred as "mobile" soon as more and more people adopt portable computers as mainstay devices, but for now we'll keep the moniker.

Despite the fantastic new Nexus 7, the real announcement for me was the unveiling of the Chromecast, a simple HDMI dongle that plugs into your television and allows the wireless broadcast of all sorts of web content. Why is this a cool idea, and how isn't it just something that we're already able to do? I'll give my take on it but would love to hear from my readers as well.

Nexus 7 screenshot
Chromecast essentially allows someone to press a shortcut -- either in the Chrome browser or through the YouTube or other app -- and the content on the screen is pushed through the television. The little $35 US device will even turn on the television for you and can stream up to 1080p video. Now, the cool thing is that it is not the tablet, PC, or smartphone that is doing all of the work -- it's the cloud.

For example, as it is right now, if my wife wants to watch Netflix, she has to grab the long HDMI cord we have coming out of our TV and plug it in to her laptop. She switches to the HDMI input and plays her content. It works well, and many people use large TVs as a second or even main monitor. But the laptop is streaming the content and doing the work. With Chromecast, the dongle is in contact with the internet and is streaming the content, so the device (the phone, tablet, or PC) is free to go on to do other things. You're basically queuing up material to view, so your device is sort of a remote control. If my wife fires off a YouTube video with her iPhone by hitting the Chromecast shortcut on her YouTube iPhone app and then leaves the house, I can use my tablet or browser and take over because I have access to the Chromecast through my wifi network.

I'm simplifying the process, so be sure to check out all of the information you can. Or better yet, just pick one up. I grabbed one immediately for 40-odd bucks after shipping.

MMObility Google's new Chromecast shows screen size does not matterWhy is this important for mobile gaming? Well, if you watch the entire Google press conference, you'll see the new Nexus 7 being announced as well. I loved my 3G Nexus 7 and used the living heck out of it until I broke it. Now I am experimenting with a Windows RT device (yes, really) and still enjoy the portability. If you watch the Nexus 7 stuff, you'll see just how impressive gaming can look, even on a seven-inch screen. I played many MMORPGs on my Nexus 7, and I'm sure many more will continue to be released.

While the Chromecast is being touted only for sharing and streaming content like YouTube videos, Netflix shows, and photo slideshows, it's easy to see how streaming a game (similar to OnLive) is on its way using the same technology, especially browser-based games. For a long time I've predicted a future where screen size does not matter at all, but not because I hate large PCs or am some sort of futurist. The truth is that this is just a natural march toward gaming systems and PCs that get smaller and smaller and smaller and yet more and more powerful. It's just how popular technology works. Sure, there will always be hobbyist power-gamers, but the rest of us will be able to come home, set our tablet on the coffee table, say, "Computer, play Dragon Riders with my friend Sally," and sit down to watch the whole thing stream on a screen that is the size of our wall (thanks to new, paper-thin flexible screens, of course). Don't worry; the keyboard and mouse is already portable and wireless and will be likewise be available!

The Chromecast is not really doing anything that we haven't seen before. As it is right now, we have the ability to stream MMOs (see: TERA's older trial) and other games. The streaming will become smoother and smoother as the internet becomes faster and faster for more of us. But the brilliant thing about Google's new product is that it is so revolutionary not in technology but in price and availability. Google brings these innovations to the masses, and Chromecast (and products like it that will surely be introduced by other companies) will help more of us grow used to the idea of streaming content.

That means streaming games will gain more attention eventually. If MMO developers wanted to, they could introduce streaming games to their players as an option for those who do not have or do not want to have a gaming PC in their living room but still want access to a larger screen that does everything. The screens grow larger and cheaper, the devices grow smaller and more powerful, and the internet does much of the heavy lifting.

Intense graphics are no longer a dividing point for gamers. A seven-inch tablet can already run high-quality graphics and will only become more capable with devices like the Chromecast. I certainly hope that MMO developers work with some alternative means of supplying gamers with their products because the rest of the internet is moving forward with this technology, with or without them.

Each week in MMObility, Beau Hindman dives into the murky waters of the most accessible and travel-friendly games around, including browser-based and smartphone MMOs. Join him as he investigates the best, worst, and most daring games to hit the smallest devices! Email him suggestions, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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