Google has just wrapped up its annual developer conference Google I/O, where it announced to the direction it’s heading for the forthcoming year, including the launch of the new Google Game Services.
The event saw some big announcements, such as the launch of a new Nexus handset and the Samsung’s Galaxy S4, as well as a big refresh for Google Maps and Google Earth. Buried among the plethora of announcements during the four hour – yes, four hour! – conference were some interesting developments in regards to Google’s plans for the world of gaming.
Google announced the launch of its Google Game Services. But what exactly is it? Well, think of iOS’s Game Center, and you’re not far off the mark. Google Game Services sees the launch of achievements, cloud saves, real-time matchmaking and leaderboards; sound like Game Center? That’s because it pretty much is. But there is, however, one key difference to Apple’s Game Center suite: Google Game Services will be cross-platform. This means that Google Game Services can be implemented across Android, iOS and multiple web-based platforms.
How will this work in practice?
Google have announced that Google Game Services will be linked to your Google Plus account; in a similar way in which mobile games ask you to sign into various gaming services, such as Game Center, EA’s Origin, or even Facebook. To take advantage of the service, you’ll need to sign into your Google Plus account, which will access your friends and power its leaderboards via your friends and their game-related activity. Perhaps, by becoming the underpinnings of Google Game Services, Google Plus will properly take off; conversely, by tying its Game Services to Plus, Google risks gaining as much traction with Google Game Services as it has with Google Plus.
[quote] Google aims to make the service available to as many Android users as possible. [/quote]
However, the matchmaking feature will not be cross-platform at launch, and will only be initially available to Android users. And, speaking of Android users, Google aims to make the service available to as many Android users as possible. This includes those running Froyo (Android 2.2), right up until its current iteration, Jellybean (4.2). This is crucial for Google, as its Android mobile OS has been plagued by fragmentation, where hardware manufacturers such as Samsung or HTC offer skinned and modified versions of Android’s OS, making developing for the platform difficult at best.
A wider audience
By opening Google Game Services to users using devices as old as Froyo, which launched in May 2010, Google will overcome the problem of having users using different iterations of their OS.A recent report revealed only 1.8 per cent of Android users are still using an older version of Android than Froyo, so Google Game Services will aim to reach as wide an audience as possible. Greg Hartrell recently spoke to Polygon regarding Google Game Services and commented: “at Google, we want to make our services available to as many folks as possible.”
The Google Game Services SDK is already available to developers, and we’ve already seen its implementation to popular mobile games such as Super Stickman Golf 2 or a few of Gameloft’s popular titles, such as Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour or Dungeon Hunter 4.
Out with the old, in with the new
Further to its announcement of Google Game Services, Google announced that it was to close the games section on Google Plus on June 30th. The ill-fated service allowed you to play games such as Angry Birds or Zynga’s CityVille in your browser, and allowed you to share high scores with your Google Plus friends. Google has also advised users of the soon-to-be-closed service to contact developers to see if any in-game credits can be migrated to the game’s new home.
Aside from Google Game Services, Google also demonstrated a cool Chrome Experiment at I/O. A scalextric-like game was demoed on-stage, where any mobile device running the Chrome browser could be linked together to create a top-down racetrack. Your device needs to be put in-line with the other devices, as your screen will only display a portion of the neon track. The controls seem simple, where touching the screen accelerates, and letting go brakes; attempting to go around corners too fast will cause cars to fly off the track. It’s available to try now on your mobile device: just visit g.co/racer on Chrome to try it with your friends.