Google instant lets you try games without having to install them
Game Developers Conference starts this week in San Francisco, and Google is looking to burnish its reputation among game developers with a handful of new announcements. The most newsworthy is “Google Play Instant,” which allows game demos to be played on Android devices simply by clicking a link, rather than fully installing the game. Instant Apps are a merger of how the web works and how regular apps work It’s also pointing to improvements in its game ad ecosystem and a new way to set up multiplayer game servers.
Today, the company is extending this program to games. Thanks to this, you can now see what playing a level or two of Clash Royale, Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire or Panda Pop is like without having to go through the usual install procedure. Instead, you simply head for the Google Play store, find a game that supports this feature, and hit the “Try now” button.
Google Play product managers Jonathan Karmel and Benjamin Frenkel told me that the team learned a lot from the experience with building Instant Apps. For games, though, the team decided to increase the maximum file size from 2 MB to 10 MB, which isn’t really a surprise, given that a game needs a few more graphical assets than your regular to-do list app. In my experience testing this feature, this still allows the games to load quickly enough, though it doesn’t feel quite as instant as most of the regular instant apps do.
The main idea behind this project, Karmel and Frenkel said, is to drive discovery. To do this, the team is adding a new ‘arcade’ tab in the newly redesigned Google Play Games app to highlight the current crop of Instant games and launching an Instant Gameplay collection in the Google Play Store. The main advantage of these Instant games, though, is that users can try the game without having to install anything. As the team noted, every extra step in the install process offers potential players yet another chance to drop off and move on. Indeed, many users actually install a game and then never open it.
Some casual games already take up less than 10 MB and those developers will be able to opt to make their complete game available as a Play Instant app, too.
For now, this project is still a closed beta, though Google plans to open it up to more developers later this year. Some games that currently support Play Instant include Clash Royale, Words with Friends 2, Bubble Witch 3 Saga and Panda Pop, as well as a few other titles from Playtika, Jam City, MZ, and Hothead.
Google has demoed interesting future ideas like challenging a friend to a race in a game he or she doesn’t own. You could send a link over IM, and an instant app could launch for your opponent without necessitating a lengthy download time. Similarly, you could play a round of Words with Friends with someone who doesn’t have the app installed.
Instant apps required changes to the Java-based Android SDK, but now with a games version, Google is juggling changes to the NDK and game engines like Unity. While Instant Apps is open to any developer, the game version is still in closed beta. Google says it will open the feature “more broadly” later this year. Google has a sign-up page for interested developers.