Google launched a number of new gaming-focused features for iOS and Android at Gamers Developers Conference in San Francisco today, meant to bridge the gap between gaming on the two mobile platforms.
While Android is undoubtedly Google’s focus, both for ads and mobile development, the company has wisely not ignored the momentum of iOS-based gaming, making its Play Games tools available to developers on both platforms. The announcement today reinforces that vision, bringing cross-platform multiplayer synchronization for the two mobile operating systems. This means that developers who choose to integrate Play Games into a title on both Android and iOS can match players from both or either version.
But the game-centric additions go deeper than mere cross-platform multiplayer. Google is adding the ability for users to “gift” in-app purchases to Google+ friends, or anyone with a Play Games username. In the same app, users will be able to invite players to certain games, similar to the way Apple’s Game Center allows friends to challenge one another.
Google Play Store users will soon be able to see 18 new categories for games, a feature that was detailed last year but never came to fruition until now. These include Action, Educational, Role Playing, Card, Casino, Board, Trivia, Family, Word, Racing, Sports, Music, Arcade and more.
Developers will also have some SDKs to work with starting today: a new Play Games Unity Plug-in will allow games developed in Unity’s flexible environment to easily integrate with Play Games; games developed in C++ will also have access to a new Play Games SDK.
Finally, developers will be able to send targeted ads for in-app purchases to players within games based on their skill level and preferences. While this isn’t necessarily a good thing for gamers themselves, free-to-play games are undoubtedly the future of mobile game revenue and developers now have another tool with which to target players. Google Analytics will also be integrated into the existing AdMob interface, so developers can “gain deeper insights into how users are interacting with your app,” according to a blog post.