Square Enix plans to launch its console-quality game Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light on the Google Chrome web browser this fall.
The deal expands Google’s existing relationship with one of Japan’s largest video game publishers and gives a nice endorsement for Google’s vision of users playing high-quality games seamlessly within Chrome. The two companies made the announcement at the Google I/O developer conference in San Francisco.
Square Enix first released this game in their Tomb Raider series in August 2010 as a downloadable title on Xbox Live Arcade. The publisher subsequently ported Guardian of Light to PlayStation Network, Steam, Onlive, iOS, and Blackberry OS. The launch with Google is the first time that the game has been made available in a browser. That is, users won’t have to download it. They’ll just be able to start playing. It will use a technology dubbed Native Client, which Google made available last year.
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The open source Native Client technology has effectively turned Chrome into a new game platform with hundreds of millions of users. Chrome allows games to make use of computers’ 3D graphics hardware. That makes it possible to run games with high-end console-like graphics in a web browser. The benefits of running a game natively in Chrome is high performance, security, and the ability to port to the system easily. It is easy to port existing PC and console games to the Chrome native client partly because developers can use a variety of familiar programming tools. The Unity 3D game engine includes a check box that a developer can click in order to make a Unity-based game run on the Chrome browser.
Square Enix previously launched its first title for the Chrome Web Store, Mini Ninjas, in March. The Tomb Raider franchise has sold more than 35 million units to date since the original game’s release in 1996.
“We’re happy to be working closely with Google to bring Lara Croft to Google Chrome without download or installation of game software for the first time,” said Phil Rogers, president and chief executive of Square Enix Europe. “Console quality gaming in the browser is an area we believe in and are committed to by delivering innovative, high-quality entertainment experiences.”
More Square Enix games will run on the browser within the next year. Hapti.co, a studio owned by Square Enix, is handling Guardian of Light’s port to Chrome.
Martin Jensen, a founder of Hapti.co, said, “The process itself is relatively easy. Native Client is an early platform, which has challenges, but the platform is maturing rapidly. We feel incredibly fortunate to be a launch partner, and Google has provided great support for our developers.”