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At the Game Developers Conference 2018 in San Francisco today, Google introduced Google Play Instant, the new name for Android apps and games that can be launched immediately without having to install them first. Major game titles that are participating in the launch include Clash Royale, Words with Friends 2, Bubble Witch 3 Saga, and Panda Pop, plus other titles from Playtika, Jam City, MZ, and Hothead.
Google unveiled Android Instant Apps in May 2016, started letting Android users test a select few of these apps in January 2017, and opened the Android Instant Apps SDK to all developers in May 2017. Now the company is calling the effort Google Play Instant, and is expanding it to include games as well.
The idea is simple: Remove the friction of installing an app or game. Here is how the experience looks in practice, from within the Google Play Games app:
Google says games on Google Play Instant are now available on more than 1 billion Android devices worldwide (requires Android 5.0 Lollipop or higher). To find an Android game to play instantly, check out the Instant Gameplay collection on Google Play. You can also visit the Arcade tab in the redesigned Google Play Games app and launch any of the games in the same collection as the store.
Despite the name, Google hopes Google Play Instant use will spread beyond discovery directly in the app store. The vision includes game developers sharing links to play instantly directly on their sites and users inviting friends to start playing right away by sharing links on social media or via text message. Once in the game, users can choose to install the full version if they enjoy the instant experience.
Although Instant Apps have been available for a while, Google Play Instant expands on what Instant Apps can already do, catering specifically to game developers. The biggest change is that it includes a higher APK size limit — 10MB as opposed to the previous 4MB. Google Play Instant also supports progressive download support for executable code and game assets, in addition to letting developers use NDK and game engines with their existing tool chains. Google is further working with Unity and Cocos2D-x to add IDE support that lets game developers build instant apps and games.
Google Play Instant is still in closed beta, meaning not all apps and games can take advantage of the features. Google Play vice president of product Tian Lim told VentureBeat that its very early numbers are promising: User acquisition can increase between 4 percent to 15 percent if developers add an instant option for games in the Play store. Lim said Google Play Instant will hit general availability “in the coming months” when “the experience is polished,” but wouldn’t commit to a specific date.
Games are a growing market for Google. In the past year, the company says the number of Android users who installed a game has more than doubled. Nearly 40 percent of that growth came from emerging markets, including Brazil, India, Indonesia, and Mexico.
Last week, Google introduced a gaming solution from Google Maps APIs that let developers build massive real-world games and launched a dedicated game server hosting product called Agones. Over the next few months, Google will roll out a beta for video ads to reach players on Google Play through Universal App Campaigns.
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