Tag Archives: Games

Google and Ideas United Announce Infinite Deviation: Games Program Winners

Posted by Kate Brennan and Mathilde Cohen Solal, Google Play and Daraiha Greene, CS in Media

Google Play is committed to empowering new and existing voices in gaming. Earlier this year, we hosted the Indie Games Festival and sponsored the Girls Make Games summer camp. We also announced a collaboration between Infinite Deviation and Google Play.

Infinite Deviation is an initiative created by Google Computer Science (CS) in Media and Ideas United in order to tackle issues of representation in computer science. The collaboration between Google Play and Ideas United brought the Infinite Deviation program to gaming, called Infinite Deviation: Games. The program invited game designers from all backgrounds to pitch an original mobile game concept that resonates with underrepresented audiences.

Today we are excited to announce the three teams selected for the Infinite Deviation: Games development program.

A select panel of industry experts reviewed applications and chose the top three ideas. The judging panel included Colleen Macklin (Founder and Co-Director, PETLab), Jeremy Vanhoozer (Senior Creative Director, Plants vs Zombies), Molly Proffitt (CEO, Ker-Chunk Games), Shirin Laor-Raz Salemnia (Founder and CEO, PlayWerks), and Sarah Thomson (Global BD Lead, Indies, Google). These judges scored and delivered personal feedback for each submission, with the three highest scoring games moving into further development.

Here's a closer look at the three games we'll be funding and supporting development over the next six months:

Historic Gay Bar Tycoon

Mo Cohen & Maria Del Castillo Infantas - Queermo Games

Historic Gay Bar Tycoon (name pending) starts you off with a brand new queer bar in the 1920s. This game explores the role bars played in LGBT history. Will your bar survive revolutions, epidemics, and the rise of dating apps?

Queermo Games is pretty much what it sounds like: a scrappy and small indie game developing team just trying to make more LGBT games. Conveniently, they are also next door neighbors. Maria is a queer Latina who handles the art and the music, and Mo is a non-binary Jewish queer who tackles the programming and writing. Together, they also work on another longer-term project called Queer Quest with their buddy Hagen.

Burn Ban

Harrison Barton & Morgan Rowe - Pride Interactive

Burn Ban is an interactive visual novel in which you assume the role of Twig, a mentally ill queer girl. After showing destructive tendencies to cope with the death of a close friend, she is sent to Camp Sisquoc, a summer retreat for misguided students. After attending the camp for a few days, her dead friend's online social media page mysteriously starts posting again, and Twig and friends are set with determining the mystery behind the posts.

Pride Interactive is currently made up of two developers, Harrison Barton and Morgan Rowe. Pride Interactive was started as a student game team, and is now continuing on to develop independent projects. Pride Interactive endeavors to further their mission of creating a more diverse environment in the industry through games that deal with serious themes, and diverse character driven narratives.

Ghost in the Graveyard

Adnan Agha, Vivian Allum, and Armand Silvani - Ghost Stories

Ghost in the Graveyard is a story-driven mobile mystery game where you snoop through your missing brother's old phone to try and find him. "Can you find a missing person when all you have is their phone?"

Ghost Stories is a three member team from NYC with a mission to create genuine and unique experiences that connect with players. The team consists of Vivian, the lead designer and programmer, Armand, the artist and writer, and Adnan, the programmer and resident ghost. They've previously published a school project to the Xbox One and are thrilled to be able to work with Infinite Deviation to publish to Google Play.

You can find more information about the program at InfiniteDeviation.com/Games. Congratulations to the three winners and thanks to all the people who have entered the competition for their continuous work to push the boundaries of gaming design and providing a unique voice to the industry.

Playtime 2017: Find success on Google Play and grow your business with new Play Console features


Posted by Vineet Buch, Director of Product Management, Google Play Apps & Games
Today we kicked off our annual global Playtime series with back-to-back events in Berlin and San Francisco. Over the next month, we’ll be hearing from many app and game developers in cities around the world. It has been an amazing 2017 for developers on Google Play, there are now more than 8 billion new installs per month globally.

To help you continue to take advantage of this opportunity, we're announcing innovations on Google Play and new features in the Play Console. Follow us on Medium where presenters will be posting their strategies, best practices, and examples to help you achieve your business objectives. As Google Play continues to grow rapidly, we want to help people understand our business. That's why we're also publishing the State of Play 2017 report that will be updated annually to help you stay informed about our progress and how we’re helping developers succeed.

Apps and games on Google Play bring your devices to life, whether they're phones and tablets, Wear devices, TVs, Daydream, or Chromebooks like the new Google Pixelbook. We're making it even easier for people to discover and re-engage with great content on the Play Store.



Recognizing the best

We're investing in curation and editorial to showcase the highest quality apps and games we love. The revamped Editors' Choice is now live in 17 countries and Android Excellence recently welcomed new apps and games. We also continue to celebrate and support indie games, recently announcing winners of the Indie Games Festival in San Francisco and opening the second Indie Games Contest in Europe for nominations.



Discovering great games

We've launched an improved home for games with trailers and screenshots of gameplay and two new browse destinations are coming soon, 'New' (for upcoming and trending games) and 'Premium' (for paid games).



Going beyond installs

We’re showing reminders to try games you’ve recently installed and we’re expanding our successful ‘live operations’ banners on the Play Store, telling you about major in-game events in popular games you’ve got on your device. We're also excited to integrate Android Instant Apps with a 'Try it Now' button on store listings. With a single tap, people can jump right into the app experience without installing.

The new games experience on Google Play

The Google Play Console offers tools which help you and your team members at every step of an app’s lifecycle. Use the Play Console to improve app quality, manage releases with confidence, and increase business performance.



Focus on quality

Android vitals were introduced at I/O 2017 and already 65% of top developers are using the dashboard to understand their app's performance. We're adding five new Android vitals and increasing device coverage to help you address issues relating to battery consumption, crashes, and render time. Better performing apps are favored by Google Play's search and discovery algorithms.
We're improving pre-launch reports and enabling them for all developers with no need to opt-in. When you upload an alpha or beta APK, we'll automatically install and test your app on physical, popular devices powered by Firebase Test Lab. The report will tell you about crashes, display issues, security vulnerabilities, and now, performance issues encountered.
When you install a new app, you expect it to open and perform normally. To ensure people installing apps and games from Google Play have a positive experience and developers benefit from being part of a trusted ecosystem, we are introducing a policy to disallow apps which consistently exhibit broken experiences on the majority of devices such as​ crashing,​ closing,​ ​freezing,​ ​or​ ​otherwise​ ​functioning​ ​abnormally. Learn more in the policy center.



Release with confidence

Beta testing lets trusted users try your app or game before it goes to production so you can iterate on your ideas and gather feedback. You can now target alpha and beta tests to specific countries. This allows you to, for example, beta test in a country you're about to launch in, while people in other countries receive your production app. We'll be bringing country-targeting to staged rollouts soon.
We've also made improvements to the device catalog. Over 66% of top developers are using the catalog to ensure they provide a great user experience on the widest range of devices. You can now save device searches and see why a specific device doesn't support your app. Navigate to the device catalog and review the terms of service to get started.



Grow your subscriptions business

At I/O 2017 we announced that both the number of subscribers on Play and the subscriptions business revenue doubled in the preceding year. We're making it easier to setup and manage your subscription service with the Play Billing Library and, soon, new test instruments to simplify testing your flows for successful and unsuccessful payments.
We're helping you acquire and retain more subscribers. You can offer shorter free trials, at a minimum of three days, and we will now enforce one free trial at the app level to reduce the potential for abuse. You can opt-in to receive notifications when someone cancels their subscription and we're making it easier for people to restore a canceled subscription. Account hold is now generally available, where you can block access to your service while we get a user to fix a renewal payment issue. Finally, from January 2018 we're also updating our transaction fee for subscribers who are retained for more than 12 months.



Announcing the Google Play Security Reward Program

At Google, we have long enjoyed a close relationship with the security research community. Today we're introducing the Google Play Security Reward Program to incentivize security research into popular Android apps, including Google's own apps. The program will help us find vulnerabilities and notify developers via security recommendations on how to fix them. We hope to bring the success we have with our other reward programs, and we invite developers and the research community to work together with us on proactively improving Google Play ecosystem's security.



Stay up to date with Google Play news and tips





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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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