During the Google for Games Developer Summit today, Google announced a few new features that those who enjoy Android games use to take their experience to the next level. With the explosive growth of Android (3B active monthly devices) and Google Play (2.5B monthly active users), the company’s digital app store has breached 140B installations across the globe! With all of the games available on tap there, especially with Google Play Pass, it wants to make Play Games more enticing for all. Many have turned to gaming during the global pandemic to pass the time or as a form of escapism, so these updates should pique your interest!
Updates for Gamers
One of the biggest announcements out of the summit puts mobile gaming on par with an experience found on current and next-generation game consoles – ‘Play as you download’. While Google Play Instant Games have traditionally allowed users to launch a lightweight game by downloading just a few megabytes in the background in no time at all, Play as you download takes this a step further.
Anyone running Android 12 will be able to get into the gameplay of all games much quicker. Within seconds, the core game assets are downloaded to the user’s device and they will be able to launch it and begin enjoying said game immediately while the remaining files download in the background. This has already led to games being ready to play twice as fast as before! For example, a 400 MB game takes as little as ten seconds to fully load into the experience compared to potentially several minutes as it may have in the past. This will, of course, vary, but it’s definitely a vast improvement. Check out the example below of a traditional download compared to ‘Play as you download’ on Android 12.
Additionally, a new game dashboard will be available to players who want to quickly access important settings while playing games. This includes enabling and managing screen recording faster, adjusting the device’s brightness without having to access Android’s quick settings and more. While a dashboard of sorts already exists and can be launched through the Play Games app prior to beginning a game, this seeks to greatly improve its usefulness and fluidity. The new dashboard will be available on select devices later this year – most assuredly Pixel phones, but we don’t know at this time.
Updates For Developers
For developers, there were many announcements today. For starters, Google just launched a new Android Game Developer Kit which includes a full range of tools and libraries to help devs create, optimize, and deliver high-quality Android games. In its early stages, the AGDK will include integrated workflows (a new Visual Studios extension), Essential C/C++ game libraries (a new Game Text Input library), and performance optimization. For optimization, frame profiler support is being added to the GPU profiler and new loading time support is now being included in the Android Performance Tuner. If that’s all Shakespearian to you, or you’re a new mobile dev, don’t worry – this just means that mobile gaming is getting even faster and cleaner to develop, deliver, and play!
Google also reiterated the importance of Google Play gaming on Chromebooks – with usage up 300% over this past year, more people than ever are using their downtime to play something fun on Chrome OS. With that being said, Unity 2020 LTS is still coming later this year and as a reminder, support for Chrome OS is baked into version 2021.2 of the 3D game engine so that developers can build for larger screens and more inputs with ease.
Play Asset Delivery is being iterated on so that gamers spend less time waiting for their experiences to download (in conjunction with ‘Play as you download’) and so that when they are downloading, the quality of the game does not suffer. Basically, Texture Compression Format Targeting will automatically decide what modern compression format should be utilized so that the game file’s size is reduced. It’s intelligent and efficient. With all of these updates, mobile gaming is truly going to evolve in a way that most probably would have never anticipated.
To wrap things up, developers have a new Play Integrity API (read: Anti-cheat engine for mobile gaming), Game Mode APIs to react to performance profiles that players choose (better battery life for long commutes, or performance mode for optimizing frame rates, for example), new insight tools to analyze the reach they have and which devices and specifications gamers are playing on, App campaigns to build hype for pre-registration, and much more. Check out the official announcement to learn more so you can build the best experiences for all of your users and gain new audiences in the process.
Ultimately, when Chromebooks receive Android 12, all of these wonderful features will benefit them as well. Gaming on larger screens is about to enter a whole new realm of awesomeness, with Play Games pushing the limits of mobile gaming, Borealis for Chrome OS, Stadia, and more. I’m super excited to see what comes of Play Games and hope that the company continues to evolve it to reach outside of the smartphones in our pockets! Let me know in the comments if you’re interested in Android games, or if you just and only play in the cloud.