Google Play Games gets cross-platform multiplayer gaming between iOS and Android

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First announced at the Internet giant’s I/O developer conference last May, Google Play Games services provide Android, iOS and web developers with APIs for Apple Game Center-like features such as leaderboards, achievements, cloud saves, sign-in services and more. There was just one piece of the puzzle missing for the full cross-platform gaming nirvana: support for multiplayer sessions between iOS and Android devices.

As announced today on the official Android Developers blog and at Game Developers Conference, the newly-updated SDK now makes it easy to implement both Google Play Games turn-based and real-time multiplayer modes. When implemented by a game developer on both iOS and Android, player with an iPhone can challenge his or her Android-totting friend to multiplayer matches, and vice versa…

According to the blog post, in addition to turn-based and real-time multiplayer capabilities for both Android and iOS, Google Play Games and the accompanying API have now been enhanced with the ability to implement support for game gifts allowing players to send each other virtual in-game items.

Google is also expanding its Play Store with eighteen new game categories to make it “easier for players to find games they’ll love”.

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.

Google has also improved game analytics that developers can access through the Google Play Developer Console with a daily dashboard which visualizes player and engagement statistics for signed in users, including daily active users, retention analysis and achievement and leaderboard performance.

Finally, Google is making Google Analytics available directly in the AdMob interface and said In-App Purchase Ads will let game developers target players with specific promotions to buy items in their games.

I wish Apple ported its Game Center to Android.

Even better, make Game Center and Google Play Games talk to each other.

True gamers would definitely benefit from a theoretical ability to, say, issue a challenge in a racing game on an iPhone using Game Center to their Android counterparts who has the same game, only with Google Play Games support.

Not that it will ever happen, mind you, but then again – who knows as this is now Tim Cook’s Apple, after all.

Last week, Google announced that a new Android SDK for wearable devices will be releasing later this month, fueling rumors of a Google-branded smartwatch project.