Updated March 3 with more information from Google.
Google has unveiled several strategies this week to help game developers sell their wares to Play Store shoppers, but now it’s looking to expand those efforts outside the app store as well. A new initiative will let developers who advertise their games with Google allow users to try out the games, without being directed to download or install anything.
Announced at GDC today, Google is calling the new service Playables. As first reported by MediaPost, Sissie Hsiao, director of product management for mobile advertising, outlined the new venture, which utilizes HTML5 to create fully playable versions of games right inside of ads. In an accompanying blog post, Google says Playables will being rolling out in the coming months.
Targeting mobile users, the ad format seems similar to the occasional Google Doodle that lets us play lightweight games right in our browsers. Playables will be compatible with Universal App Campaigns built through Google Web Designer or third-party agencies, and is an effort to gain more qualified installs from users who try the game in the ad and chose to download it. "Playables help you get more qualified installs from users who tried your game in the ad and made the choice to download it for more play time," the company said. "By attracting already-engaged users into your app, playables help you drive the long-term outcomes you care about—rounds played, levels beat, trophies won, purchases made and more."
In addition to a limited, but still fully playable game experience, developers also have access to a new auto-flip feature that "uses Google's machine learning technology to identify the most important objects in every frame of your horizontal video creative." That means developers can design their in-game ads for portrait phones and they will dynamically rotate for landscape users, intelligently cropping and zooming to enhance the experience.
How it will play out: This isn’t just good for developers—it’s great for users too. Our phones are littered with games that we’ve downloaded, played once, and never launched again, and now we’ll be able to try out the latest craze with taking up any space on our phone. And it’ll help us discover new ones, too. It would be pretty great if Google could expand this concept beyond games, or bring it into the Play Store listing itself, but even in its current form, it’s a great idea. And while it’s only for ad purposes now, it portends a future along with Instant Apps and Progressive Web Apps where we don’t have to constantly worry about the storage on our phones.