Google Play Games plays catchup with cloud saves, quests, gamer profiles

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Saving games to the cloud and online gamerscores are now staples of most modern gaming platforms. Now you can add Google to that list, too.

At the Google I/O conference on Wednesday, Ellie Powers, a product manager in charge of Google Play, said that Google would be adding new features to its Google Play Games platform in a bid to make it even more compelling. 

Google Play Games is the fastest-growing games platform of all time, according to Powers, with 100 million new users joining the platform in the past six months. Since last year’s Google I/O, Google has paid out more than $5 billion to developers on Google Play, said Sundar Pichai, who runs Google’s Android business. That’s about 2.5 times the growth from the year before, he said.

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Google Play’s new Game Profile.

On Wednesday, Google added a new Game Profile, which changes automatically according to the games you play and the achievements you complete. “It makes playing games more fun,” Powers said.

Since last year, gamers have loved saving their progress in the cloud, and now, gamers will be able to save “bookmarks” of their progress in the Play Games app in the Saved Games section. What these bookmarks mean, and how they’ll differ from an actual saved game, is unknown. It may be, however, that they will be a “snapshot” or saved state by which users can backtrack in a game. In a demonstration, Powers showed an actual snapshot of her playing a level in a game.

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Users will also be able to record “snapshots,” or saved games, using Google Play.

Google is also adding a feature that will benefit developers and gamers alike: an API that will allow developers to set daily quests, such as collecting a set amount of in-game items. If they do so, gamers can be rewarded—all without the developer needing to issue a daily app update. Some games—Powers didn’t specify which—have already been upgraded with Quests, she said.

The Quests, Saved Games, and Profile features will be rolled out in the next portion of the Google Games services and the Play Games app. When? “Soon,” Powers promised. 

Google will also roll out mobile carrier billing to tablets, expanding that capability from the phone. In other words, if you’ve set up carrier billing on your phone, it will work on your tablet—even if it’s Wi-Fi only. Carrier billing means that if you buy an app from the store, or make an in-app purchase, those charges show up on your cellular phone bill, instead of hitting your credit card one by one.

Google Play has already evolved to offer a serious challenge to Apple’s iOS in terms of gaming. With more revenue opportunities for developers and more gaming-centric features for gamers themselves, it hopes to become more powerful yet. 

We’re still left with a question, though—if Android wants to become a gaming platform, where were the developers? Hardware like the new Razer microconsole means little if developers don’t sign on—and Google hasn’t taken advantage of either the E3 show or its Google I/O to showcase any hot new games being developed for the Android platform. 

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