May

22

Google Play Game Services - A Social Game Changer?

Mark Stephens

Last week, at their sixth annual developers' meeting, Google announced the creation of its answer to Apple’s Game Centre and Microsoft’s Xbox Live. It was no big surprise as it was leaked by Android Police before the event. It’s called Google Play Game Services and it’s already been included in some game updates out there. What opportunities is this going to provide for developers and how will it affect the social gaming community as a whole?

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Game Services for Players

Game Services has many of the features you associate with Game Centre and other platforms such as OpenFeint, which recently played its last game and pulled the plug.

It has real-time multiplayer capabilities for easy co-operation and competitive social gaming experiences; social and public leader boards that allow users to celebrate leading the pack with their friends and the world; an achievements section designed to boost player engagement; and saves to the cloud for added convenience – you can resume the game from where you left off when you change devices; also featured are in-game chat, matchmaking and invitations, which are all other staples of game centres.

With a single Google Plus log-in, in-game, the system will track your ID across all games and devices, so that you maintain access to leader boards, achievements and saved games.

Starting a game on your Samsung S4 on the way to work, then resuming it on your iPad at lunch-time and then finishing it on your PC when you get home, IS pretty cool, whichever way you look at it.

While some titles will probably support both Facebook and Google Plus for social gaming your achievements won’t be carried over from one platform to the other. The platforms, remember, are pretty much at war with each other!

Game Services For Developers

You don’t have to be an Android developer specifically to work with Game Services. It is designed to be linked across iOS and the web, as well as Android. Accordingly, iOs and web developers have access to the SDK too.

However, unlike Game Centre, the Google offering provides back-end support for developers instead of a standalone application.

Google Getting Serious about Social Games

Google Play already makes loads of games available to Android devices. Game Services will make the experience a lot more social, more competitive and much more convenient for players.

It’s clear from their recent developers’ meeting schedule that Google is keen to take advantage of the upturn in social gaming and particularly mobile social gaming. Developer training sessions were heavily geared towards game-related themes, which was not the case in previous years.

Perhaps the emphasis on gaming this year signifies that Google is about to increase its focus there in its drive to catch Facebook in social networking terms and Apple in gaming terms.

Google also recently hired a veteran of game design, Noah Falstein, who has worked in the industry over 30 years, and Rachel Bernstein from Electronic Arts.

You can almost hear Google’s footfalls behind you, gathering pace on this one; they are ramping up for something big. They have the muscle to help create the social gaming future, if they get it right. There is the potential for social gaming world to become much less fragmented and for the importance of one’s device type for game play to become much less significant, due to Google’s big move into games.

Before it was Google Glasses; now it is Google Play Game Services. How will the two combine in the virtual gaming future, one wonders?