Tag Archives: Games

Google and Ideas United Launch Program to Support Inclusivity in Game Design

Posted by Daraiha Greene, CS Education in Media Program Manager, Multicultural Strategy, and Kate Brennan and Mathilde Cohen Solal, Google Play

Today, we are thrilled to announce Infinite Deviation: Games. Infinite Deviation is an initiative created by Google Computer Science (CS) in Media and Ideas United in order to tackle issues of representation by bringing creativity and computer science together in unexpected ways -- ensuring that representations of computer scientists are inclusive of women, people of color, the LGBTQIA+ community, people with disabilities, and other underrepresented groups. Last year, Infinite Deviation produced a series of narrative short films to dispel stereotypes in computer science and is excited to collaborate with Google Play to bring the Infinite Deviation program to gaming.

Currently only 23% of people in the gaming industry identify as women and only 3% of game developers are African-American. From ensuring women are represented in video games to giving young girls the chance to create their own games, Google Play is committed to bringing new, diverse voices to gaming. The program gives game designers from all backgrounds the chance to pitch an original mobile game concept and have it developed, published, and promoted in partnership with Google Play. Applicants can submit their mobile game concepts until October 9.

The top three ideas will be chosen by a panel of industry experts and designers will receive the resources and support they need to bring their games to life on Google Play. Games will be judged on creativity and innovation, as well as their ability to tell original stories that resonate with underrepresented audiences.

Participants must have less than two years of professional game design experience in order to be eligible. For more information on the program, including how to apply, you can visit InfiniteDeviation.com.

By promoting original games that resonate with underrepresented audiences, we hope the program creates more favorable perceptions of computer science, bust biases, and nurture acceptance through an activity many enjoy.

Playdemic drives user engagement and revenue with live game operations on Google Play

Posted by Adriana Puchianu, Developer Marketing, Google Play

Based in the UK, Playdemic is a free-to-play mobile games developer. Their leading game Golf Clash is designed to provide a short and fun, competitive experience. It uses a simple and accessible game mechanics based on one-thumb gaming which has generated substantial user engagement, with an average of 44 minutes played over three sessions a day. Golf Clash is now played by more than 1.5 million players every day whilst the average revenue per user is equal to other platforms.

Watch Paul Gouge, CEO & Co-founder, and Gareth Jones, Head of Production, discuss how Playdemic uses live game operations ("live ops") to continuously engage players and grow their business on Google Play. Live ops are also referred to as "running games as a service"; they include the strategic distribution of content and interactions with players that are limited in time and are designed to increase engagement and monetization.

Watch more developer stories and learn about other features and best practices you can use to succeed on Google Play with the updated Playbook app.

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Making Great Mobile Games with Firebase

So much goes into building and maintaining a mobile game. Let’s say you want to ship it with a level builder for sharing content with other players and, looking forward, you want to roll out new content and unlockables linked with player behavior. Of course, you also need players to be able to easily sign into your soon-to-be hit game.

With a DIY approach, you’d be faced with having to build user management, data storage, server side logic, and more. This will take a lot of your time, and importantly, it would take critical resources away from what you really want to do: build that amazing new mobile game!

Our Firebase SDKs for Unity and C++ provide you with the tools you need to add these features and more to your game with ease. Plus, to help you better understand how Firebase can help you build your next chart-topper, we’ve built a sample game in Unity and open sourced it: MechaHamster. Check it out on Google Play or download the project from GitHub to see how easy it is to integrate Firebase into your game.
Before you dive into the code for Mecha Hamster, here’s a rundown of the Firebase products that can help your game be successful.

Analytics

One of the best tools you have to maintain a high-performing game is your analytics. With Google Analytics for Firebase, you can see where your players might be struggling and make adjustments as needed. Analytics also integrates with Adwords and other major ad networks to maximize your campaign performance. If you monetize your game using AdMob, you can link your two accounts and see the lifetime value (LTV) of your players, from in-game purchases and AdMob, right from your Analytics console. And with Streamview, you can see how players are interacting with your game in realtime.

Test Lab for Android - Game Loop Test

Before releasing updates to your game, you’ll want to make sure it works correctly. However, manual testing can be time consuming when faced with a large variety of target devices. To help solve this, we recently launched Firebase Test Lab for Android Game Loop Test at Google I/O. If you add a demo mode to your game, Test Lab will automatically verify your game is working on a wide range of devices. You can read more in our deep dive blog post here.

Authentication

Another thing you’ll want to be sure to take care of before launch is easy sign-in, so your users can start playing as quickly as possible. Firebase Authentication can help by handling all sign-in and authentication, from simple email + password logins to support for common identity providers like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Github. Just announced recently at I/O, Firebase also now supports phone number authentication. And Firebase Authentication shares state cross-device, so your users can pick up where they left off, no matter what platforms they’re using.

Remote Config

As more players start using your game, you realize that there are few spots that are frustrating for your audience. You may even see churn rates start to rise, so you decide that you need to push some adjustments. With Firebase Remote Config, you can change values in the console and push them out to players. Some players having trouble navigating levels? You can adjust the difficulty and update remotely. Remote Config can even benefit your development cycle; team members can tweak and test parameters without having to make new builds.

Realtime Database

Now that you have a robust player community, you’re probably starting to see a bunch of great player-built levels. With Firebase Realtime Database, you can store player data and sync it in real-time, meaning that the level builder you’ve built can store and share data easily with other players. You don't need your own server and it’s optimized for offline use. Plus, Realtime Database integrates with Firebase Auth for secure access to user specific data.

Cloud Messaging & Dynamic Links

A few months go by and your game is thriving, with high engagement and an active community. You’re ready to release your next wave of new content, but how can you efficiently get the word out to your users? Firebase Cloud Messaging lets you target messages to player segments, without any coding required. And Firebase Dynamic Links allow your users to share this new content — or an invitation to your game — with other players. Dynamic Links survive the app install process, so a new player can install your app and then dive right into the piece of content that was shared with him or her.

At Firebase, our mission is to help mobile developers build better apps and grow successful businesses. When it comes to games, that means taking care of the boring stuff, so you can focus on what matters — making a great game. Our mobile SDKs for C++ and Unity are available now at firebase.google.com/games.

By Darin Hilton, Art Director

Get the updated Playbook app for news and tips to help you grow your business on Google Play

Posted by Dom Elliott, Developer Marketing, Google Play

Get the latest Playbook app for developers to learn about features, best practices, and strategies to succeed on Google Play. Discover insights from Google to help you develop and launch your app, engage and grow your audience, and earn more revenue. With localized content, the Playbook app for developers is available in 14 languages (English, Bahasa Indonesia, Deutsch, español (Latinoamérica), le français, português do Brasil, ภาษาไทย, tiếng Việt, Türk, русский язы́к, 한국어, 中文 (简体), 中文 (繁體), and 日本語).

Thank you to all the beta testers who provided valuable feedback (keep it coming!). With the latest update, we have simplified the user experience, improved content discovery, and automated notifications for different types of content (which are customizable) to help you stay up to date, among other improvements. You can also add tags to the home screen based on your interests to easily see posts and videos that are relevant to you.

To get started, install the updated Playbook app for developers and then:

  • Follow the onboarding and sign in with your Google account.
  • Read the latest posts on the home screen and add tags from the settings screen which match your interests..
  • Explore in-depth best practices written by Google in our guide, and see the top articles for grouped by your objectives: develop, launch, engage, grow, and earn.
  • Discover the latest posts and videos from Google and experts across the industry and filter by interest tags.
  • Save content so you can view posts and videos on your home screen and access relevant content more quickly.
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User experience tips to help you design your app to engage users and drive conversions

By Jenny Gove, Senior Staff UX Researcher, Google Play

We know you work hard to acquire users and grow your customer base, which can be challenging in a crowded market. That's why we've heard from many of you that you find tools like store listing experiments and universal app campaigns are valuable. It's equally important to keep customers engaged from the beginning. Great design and delightful user experiences are fundamental to doing just that.

We partnered with AnswerLab to conduct comprehensive user experience research across a variety of verticals; including e-commerce, insurance, travel, food ordering, ticket sales and services, and financial management. The resulting insights may help you increase engagement and conversion by providing guidance on useful and usable functionality.

The best app experiences seamlessly guide users through their tasks with efficient navigation, search, forms, registration and purchasing. They provide great e-commerce facilities and integrate effective ordering and payment systems. Ultimately, an engaging app begins with attention to usability in all of these areas. Learn tips on:

  • Navigation & Exploration
  • In-App Search
  • Commerce & Conversions
  • Registration
  • Form Entry
  • Usability and Comprehension

You can read the full article, design your app to drive conversions, on the Android Developers website, complete with links to developer resources. Also get the Playbook for Developers app to stay up-to-date with features and best practices that will help you grow a successful business on Google Play.

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Why you should localize your app or game for Middle East and North Africa

By Mohammad El-Saadi, Business Development, Google Play

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is a fast growing market for app and game developers on Google Play, and localizing is crucial to making the most of the opportunity. For example, the main grossing apps & games in Saudi Arabia have localized their store listings and their actual app and game on Google Play.

The British team behind the Skyscanner travel app had already localised it into more than 15 languages, yet the launch in Arabic was a huge milestone for them. Arabic speaking users really appreciated the localization and the app's average user rating increased from 4.62☆ to 4.77☆ after localization. Users engaged with the app longer, with an increase of 30% in their average session duration. Additionally 50% more travellers have been redirected to Skyscanner partners to book flight, hotel and car hire deals.


Skyscanner opening screen in English and in Arabic
But how difficult is it to correctly localize your app or game to Arabic?

The team at Skyscanner managed to develop Right-To-Left (RTL) Arabic language support within the app in two weeks: "Our initial fear was that we would need lots of manual coding for the layouts. However, the Android layout system handled all of the cases really well. We were already using *Start and *End margin and padding in line with guidelines, but there's also Android Studio support and Lint check to fix any issues automatically." says Tamas Chrenoczy-Nagy, Senior Software Engineer.

Many other top apps and games developers are successfully investing in localizing for MENA users. For example, when game developer Pocket Gems localised War Dragons, the installs by Arabic speaking users tripled. Their percentage of revenue from Arabic language players also went from effectively 0% to ~1.5%.

We just refreshed the Now in Arabic collection (MENA only) with 16 newly localized apps and games, including titles like Netflix, Periscope and Clash of Queen Dragons. It will be live until May 11 on Google Play in the following countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and United Arab Emirates.


Check our Localization Checklist for best practices when localizing for any language, and our Going Global Playbook. When your app or game in Arabic is ready, you can self-nominate to be part of future refreshes of the Now in Arabic collection by filling in this form.


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App onboarding for kids: how Budge Studios creates a more engaging experience for families

Posted by Josh Solt (Partner Developer Manager, Kids Apps at Google Play) and Noemie Dupuy (Founder & Co-CEO at Budge Studios)

Developers spend a considerable amount of resources driving users to download their apps, but what happens next is often the most critical part of the user journey. User onboarding is especially nuanced in the kids space since developers must consider two audiences: parents and children. When done correctly, a compelling onboarding experience will meet the needs of both parents and kids while also accounting for unique considerations, such as a child's attention span.

Budge Studios has successfully grown their catalog of children's titles by making onboarding a focal point of their business. Their target demographic is three to eight-year olds, and their portfolio of games include top titles featuring Strawberry Shortcake, Hello Kitty, Crayola, Caillou and The Smurfs.

"First impressions matter, as do users' first experience with your app. In fact, 70%1 of users who delete an app will do so within a day of having downloaded it, leaving little time for second chances. As an expert in kids' content, Budge tapped into our knowledge of kids to improve and optimize the onboarding experience, leading to increased initial game-loop completion and retention." - Noemie, Founder & Co-CEO at Budge Studios

Three key ways Budge Studios designs better onboarding experiences:


1. Make sure your game is tailor-made for kids

When Budge released their app Crayola Colorful Creatures, they looked at data to identify opportunities to create a smoother onboarding flow for kids. At launch, only 25% of first-time users were completing the initial game loop. Budge analyzed data against gameplay and realized the last activity was causing a drastic drop-off. It required kids to use the device's microphone, and that proved too challenging for very young kids. Budge was able to adjust the initial game loop so that all the activities were accessible to the youngest players. These adjustments almost tripled the initial loop completion, resulting in 74% of first-time users progressing to see additional activities.

2. Earn parents trust by providing real value upfront

Budge has a large of portfolio of apps. Earning parents' trust by providing valuable and engaging experiences for kids is important for retaining users in their ecosystem and achieving long term success.

With every new app, Budge identifies what content is playable for free, and what content must be purchased. Early on, Budge greatly limited the amount of free content they offered, but over time has realized providing high quality free content enhances the first-time user experience. Parents are more willing to spend on an app if their child has shown a real interest in a title.

Working with top kids' brands means that Budge can tap into brand loyalty of popular kids characters to provide value. To launch Strawberry Shortcake Dreams, Budge decided to offer Strawberry Shortcake, the most popular character in the series, as a free character. Dress Up Dreams is among the highest converting apps in the Budge portfolio, indicating that giving away the most popular character for free helped conversions rather than hurting it.

3. Test with real users

Budge knows there is no substitute for direct feedback from its end-users, so Budge involves kids every step of the way. Budge Playgroup is a playtesting program that invites families to try out apps at the alpha, beta and first-playable development stages.

The benefits from early testing can be as basic as understanding how the size and coordination of kids' hands affect their ability to complete certain actions or even hold the device, and as specific as pinpointing a less-than-effective button.

In the testing stages of Strawberry Shortcake Holiday Hair, Budge caught an issue with the main menu of the app, which would not have been evident without observing kids using the app.

Prior to Playtesting:

After Playtesting:

In the original design, users were prompted to start gameplay by audio cues. During testing, it was clear that the voiceover was not sufficient in guiding kids to initiate play, and that additional visual clues would significantly improve the experience. A simple design change resulted in a greatly enhanced user experience.

The onboarding experience is just one component of an app, but just like first impressions, it has a disproportionate impact on your users' perception of your app. As Budge has experienced, involving users in testing your app, using data to flag issues and providing real value to your users upfront, creates a smoother, more accessible onboarding experience and leads to better results.

For more best practices on developing family apps and games, please check out The Family Playbook for developers. And visit the Android Developers website to stay up-to-date with features and best practices that will help you grow a successful business on Google Play.

1.http://www.cmswire.com/customer-experience/mobile-app-retention-5-key-strategies-to-keep-your-customers/

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5 tips for indie game success, from indie game developers

Posted by Sarah Thomson, BD Partnerships Lead, Indies, Google Play Games

Mobile gaming is a fun place to be right now. It's a landscape seeing tremendous success year after year with great potential for additional growth and innovation. It's also a space where developers can express themselves with creative game styles, mechanics, design and more. This is what the indie community does best.

Here are 5 tips for indies by indies, shared by our gaming partners at 505 Games, About Fun, Disruptor Beam, Klei Entertainment, and Schell Games.


1. Embrace being indie


Indies are inherently smaller operations and should embrace their agility and ability to take risks. Petr Vodak, CEO at About Fun, recommends getting your product out there so you can start taking feedback and apply your learnings to future projects. Don't be afraid to fail! Remaining flexible and building in modularity so you can evolve with the business needs is a strategy embraced by Pete Arden, CMO at Disruptor Beam. For instance, with their game Star Trek Timelines, the initial user experience was tailored to avid Star Trek fans. Over time, as user acquisition costs increased, they've changed the new player experience to appeal to their evolving user base of gamers looking for a fun entertainment experience and less the specific Star Trek IP.

2. Find a way to stand out


To help stand out in the ultra competitive mobile space, Jesse Schell, CEO of Schell Games, recommends doing something clever or very different. This strategy has led them to explore the growth areas of new platforms such as AR & VR. While new platforms present a field for opportunity and creativity, they're best to be approached with the long term in mind allowing you to sustain the business until critical mass is reached.

3. Build a community


There are many ways to build communities. If you have an existing fan base on other platforms, cross-promote to drive awareness of your mobile offerings. You can also look at porting titles over, but be aware of the differences in mobile gaming habits and ensure you adapt your game accordingly.

4. Engage after install


Both 505 Games and Klei Entertainment recommend running your premium titles as a service. Through monitoring user reviews you can gain invaluable feedback and trends helping you better understand user pain points and desires. In addition, by releasing regular content updates and in-game events you create reason for users to get back in the game. This not only drives reengagement, but 505 Games also sees strong spikes in new installs aligned with major game updates.

5. Monetize in different ways


Similar strategy to above, dropping regular content refreshes and game updates while offering a variety of monetization options gives users more ways to engage with your game. Keeping your games fresh gives users reason to come back and builds loyalty so you can cross-promote to your users with future game launches.

If you're looking for a fun new game to play, check out the great selection on Indie Corner on Google Play. And if you're working on a new indie game of your own, nominate your title for inclusion.

Watch more sessions from Google Developer Day at GDC17 on the Android Developers YouTube channel to learn tips for success. Visit the Android Developers website to stay up-to-date with features and best practices that will help you grow a successful business on Google Play.


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Game developers rejoice—new tools for developing on Actions on Google

By Sunil Vemuri, Product Manager for Actions on Google

Since we launchedthe Actions on Google platform last year, we've seen a lot of creative actions for use cases ranging from meditation to insurance. But one of the areas where we're especially excited is gaming. Games like Akinator to SongPop demonstrate that developers can create new and engaging experiences for users. To bring more great games online, we're adding new tools to Actions on Google to make it easier than ever for you to build games for the Google Assistant.

First, we're releasing a brand new sound effect library. These effects can make your games more engaging, help you create a more fun persona for your action, and hopefully put smiles on your users' faces. From airplanes, slide whistles, and bowlingto cats purring and thunder, you're going to find hundreds of options that will add some pizzazz to your Action.

Second, for those of you who feel nostalgic about interactive text adventures, we just published a handy guide on how to bring these games to life with the Google Assistant. With many old favorites being open source or in the public domain, you are now able to re-introduce these classics to Google Assistant users on Google Home.

Finally, for those of you who are looking to build new types of games, we've recently expanded the list of tool and consulting companies that have integrated their development solutions with Actions on Google. New collaborators like Pullstring, Converse.AI, Solstice and XAPP Media are now also able to help turn your vision into reality.

We can't wait to see how you use our sound library and for the new and classic games you'll bring to Google Assistant users on Google Home! Make sure you join our Google+ community to discuss Actions on Google with other developers.

5 tips for building communities on mobile

Posted by Dave Geffon, Partnerships Manager, Google Play Games

The most successful games usually have the strongest communities. They are a powerful force in driving additional engagement and increasing awareness for your titles. At GDC 2017, we spoke with a few game developers about best practices for successfully building their own communities. Watch the panel session below to hear advice from Seriously, Social Point, and Super Evil MegaCorp.


1. Be authentic

Community is a mindset; be honest, transparent & patient with your communications. Loyal users are extremely valuable, thus the folks at Super Evil Megacorp say that you should act like you have to earn every player.

2. Start small

Build a plan and start today. Launch your social media channels, look into influencers, and create a strategy. Whether it's sharing one piece of fan art a week across your network, or running a closed beta to gather feedback from your most valued users, take action and learn what works best for you and your users.

3. Play match-maker

When finding influencers to support your game, ensure they're a genuine match. Make sure the influencer's audience is a good fit with your game and existing community.

4. Seek feedback 

Communities are passionate. Use feedback to understand what kind of game and features your users want. Be flexible and iterative so you can react and evolve your game with the needs and desires of your community. However, don't be afraid to stay true to what you stand for as sometimes you'll need to agree to disagree with some players.

5. Build for the long-term

The lifespan of games is continuing to grow. Plan your business strategy, update cycles and community efforts to roll out over time and expand with your growing experiences and user-base.
Watch more sessions from Google Developer Day at GDC17 on the Android Developers YT channel to learn tips for success. Also, visit the Android Developers website to stay up-to-date with features and best practices that will help you grow a successful business on Google Play.

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