Google is going to announce new features for its Google Play game services engine that will let iOS and Android users actually play together in turn-based and real-time games, The Verge reports. Although iOS and Android developers will need to include such features in their existing and upcoming games to ensure compatibility, it looks like Google is going a long way toward making gaming between the two platforms easier than ever.
A similar feature existed so far for Unity games – a plug-in for the Unity Game engine that includes support for achievements and leaderboards – but Google will bring these features to non-Unity games as well, including multiplayer titels. An early SDK for non-Unity games will be available to developers, although it will not support multiplayer at start.
In addition to multiplayer support, the new update will also bring a new “game gifts” feature for friends to share in-app gifts, new game categories, and a new way for developers to include in-app purchase-related ads in games.
“Most” of the Google Play game services’ features will be available starting with Tuesday, March 18, when Google will also hold a developer day at GDC to further explain the new functionality, The Verge writes.
Like Google, Microsoft is also taking gaming across platforms more seriously. The Xbox maker expected to bring Xbox Live to competing mobile operating systems, “in order to facilitate multiplayer matchmaking, achievements and friends lists.”
The full press release, which Google mistakenly published ahead of its time and then pulled, follows below via Android Police.
Today, everyone is a gamer. In fact, 3 in every 4 Android users are playing games, allowing developers to reach an unprecedented audience of players in an Android ecosystem that’s activated over one billion devices. This has helped Google Play Games–Google’s cross-platform game service and SDK for Android, iOS and the web (which lets you easily integrate features like achievements, leaderboards, multiplayer and cloud save into your games)–grow at tremendous speed. The momentum continues on Google Play, where four times more money was paid out to developers in 2013 than in 2012.
With the Game Developers Conference (GDC) this week, we’ll be launching a number of new features for Google Play Games and other Google products. As they launch over the coming weeks, these new services and tools will help you unlock the power of Google to take your games to the next level.
Power your game and get discovered
To help players get the most out of your games, Play Games will be expanding engagement and discovery options. We’ll be introducing game gifts, a new service that lets players send virtual in-game objects to anyone in their circles or through player search. The Play Games app now supports multiplayer invites directly, further helping players discover your game and keep them playing. And the Google Play Store will also feature 18 new game categories, making it easier for players to find games they’ll love.
Tools to take your game to the next level
Further enhancing Google Play Game services, we’re expanding multiplayer to support iOS, bringing turn-based and real-time multiplayer capabilities to both Android and iOS. To further help with cross platform game development, we’re updating our Play Games Unity Plug-in to support cross-platform multiplayer services, and introducing an early Play Games C++ SDK to support achievements and leaderboards. In addition, we’re launching enhanced Play Games statistics on the Google Play Developer Console, providing easy game analytics for Play Games adopters. Developers will gain a daily dashboard that visualizes player and engagement statistics for signed in users, including daily active users, retention analysis and achievement and leaderboard performance.
Ad features to better optimize your business
Of course, once you build a great gaming experience, it’s important to get rewarded for your work, which is why we’ll also be introducing new features to the AdMob platform. We’re making Google Analytics available directly in the AdMob interface, so you can gain deeper insights into how users are interacting with your app. Turning those insights into effective action is vital, so we’re excited by the opportunities that in-app purchase ads will offer — enabling you to target users with specific promotions to buy items in your game. Advertising continues to be a core vehicle driving many game developers’ success, so we’re also bringing you new ways to optimize your ads to earn the most revenue.