As has become something of a tradition at the Game Developers Conference (GDC), GDC 2018 also begins with Google and the Google Developer Day. Front and centre being a number of announcements relating to the release of the tech giant’s augmented reality (AR) platform ARCore. Several of which you may have already seen on VRFocus today and more of which can no doubt be expected throughout the week ahead.
However the first new service from Google on display at the talks was actually regarding the Google Play store – and, though whilst not expressly related to immersive applications, it certainly has the capacity to affect any AR app or virtual reality (VR) product for Google’s head mounted displays (HMDs) – the Google Cardboard and Google Daydream.
Called Google Play Instant, it essentially adds the ability for app developers to include an native experience demo, created using the same code as the main app which is faster for users to download and play. Allowing them to get a taster of the experience, make a judgement on whether or not it is something they would like to look at further, and are given an option to then download the full application from within the Instant experience.
Appearing as an additional ‘Try Now’ button next to the Install one in the store listing’s page, Instant has already been implemented for some apps. Now, however, it will be coming to video games in the Play Store. Instant also brings the same ‘Try Now’ button to Google ads, the Play Games app and in links sent through social invites. Availability is expected to be rolled out beyond choice partners later this year, according to Google with support being added to Unity also due to come down the line.
“What we’re seeing from the Play Store is a 4-19% increase in new players. Those are new installations, that are incremental to that which was happening previously.” Jonathan Karmel, Senior Product Manager at Google Play said, explaining some very early data from the live experiments which the company had been quietly running since December last year. “Step One was to make sure this is technically viable. We weren’t even sure if it was possible. So, we had a closed Beta, we brought in game developers and it’s very much possible. They’ve proved it to us, and we were really surprised how many developers were able to develop an Instant app in a relatively short period of time.
In a later demonstration using the title Zombie Gunship Revenant AR, a base defence title in which you take on the role and viewpoint of a helicopter gunship patrolling the skies and acting as an aerial defence against the hoards rampaging below, Google showed that even with AR apps Instant can be utilised. A version of the title appearing in only a handful of seconds.
There was no exact timetable given for the tool to be rolled out to developers but Google aims to make it accessible to all. VRFocus will bring you more details about this, and an ETA on the expected Unity support when we have them.