Among the tonne of stuff that Google dropped on developers and the tech community during the I/O 2013 event is its new and widely-expected cross-platform, unified Play Games service. Play Games will feature on Android, iOS and Chrome, providing a single and unified user experience across not just multiple devices but multiple ecosystems.
The Play Games services include:
- Cloud Saving
By far the biggest (and our favourite) of these four is cloud saving. From now on, any game that has been linked to the Play Games service can upload saved games, characters and game-states to the cloud, finally providing users with a single gaming experience no matter what device they’re playing on.
This means that users can be playing a game on their Android smartphone or iPhone, save it, and switch to a tablet or vice-versa whenever they want without having to start again or juggle various accounts. So long as the Play Games service on each device is linked to the same Google account, this is all as easy as opening the game and hitting Load or Continue.
This kind of cloud storage has already been employed by services like Xbox Live and Steam and it’s high time that it came to mobile devices. After all, mobile gaming now accounts for a massive chunk of video game activity globally, with the number and consistency of casual gamers increasing every day as smartphones continue to proliferate and the quality of mobile gaming and network coverage improves.
Another great facet of this is that users can delete a game, or buy a new device, only to re-download it and continue on where they previously left off. Anyone who’s ever deleted an old game to spare a bit of storage space, only to want to return to it months down the track will see the value in this.
So what is required on the user-end to enjoy this new service? Android 2.2 Froyo or above. That’s it. Play Games will be rolled out to every Android device with 2.2 or higher. That’s pretty close to every single active Android handset and definitely every Android tablet in use right now.
The cherry on top that we keep coming back to is that this isn’t and Android and Chrome-specific service; it’s also available for iOS users and on Chrome. Cross-ecosystem compatibility has been dying out in recent years, with Google, Apple and Microsoft all trying to make their own specific devices work better within their contained ecosystems in order to encourage brand loyalty. It’s great to see Google bridging the gap, even in this small way, with a service that’s bound to make a lot of people happy, even if they don’t realise who’s behind it.
Achievements and Leaderboards should be pretty self-explanatory. The achievements system allows players to earn points based on in-game tasks and challenges and Leaderboards allow friendly competition between friends, or can show the user their global public ranking for the game. Leaderboards are shown through Google+ in a much more aesthetically-oriented manner than one would generally associate with the concept. Still, it’s based on Google+ which currently only has 130 million active monthly users, as opposed to Facebook which has closer to one billion.
Multiplayer could definitely be a lot of fun if Google does it well. The problem with Multiplayer games is that they require a stable and a fast connection. With 4G LTE proliferating the ‘fast’ part isn’t a problem. Still, stability will be key.
Allowing users to compete against one another casually on their phones via a central Google hub has great potential. Rather than a poorly-coded and under-supported 3rd party server system, Google has a vested interest in making this work. Goodness knows Google has the server space and bandwidth necessary. We’re confident that multiplayer will at least be usable, despite an embarrassing failure to actually demonstrate the feature during the IO presentation.