What Google's I/O means for mobile gaming's future

The new version of Android will offer high-end PC-like graphics on mobile, while Google Play updates increase player engagement

By Jonathan Toyad

Image credit: The Verge

Image credit: The Verge

Early this morning Singapore time, Google showcased its new tech by way of the Google I/O conference, featuring new things on all things Android (a rising OS star in Southeast Asia) like wearable tech Android Wear, the new Android L engine and Android TV.

We’ll focus on the last two as it will affect a lot of mobile users who kill time through mobile gaming, as well as promising video game and app-developing startups who wish to enter the fray this year. Oh, and there’s also an update for Google Play which we’ll get to soon.

Android L will be able to enhance visual fidelity through optimisation. Thanks to the in-engine Android Extension Pack, developers get to use tesselation, geometry shaders and texture compression tools to make their games look like how they did on high-end PCs. As proof, Google showcased the Unreal Engine 4 game engine through a phone running Android L featuring a lot of lighting effects and water ripples/reflections. Could this give Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita games a run for their money in the next few years?

All this isn’t by chance or luck of the draw. The search engine company has partnerships and ties with companies like Nvdia, Imagination Technologies and ARM on the aforementioned extension pack. This new Android L will be available for download in this fall.

Image credit: Polygon

Image credit: Polygon

Also Read: A Peek into Google Geekdom: Google I/O 2014

So what about the Android TV, which may have a slight chance of appearing in Southeast Asia given Android’s rising user base in the region? It’s a device that is similar to Amazon’s Fire TV, in which one can control cable and satellite TV channels, search for random videos for watching, and play games.

Users can link up their Android-powered phones to search for things easily on the Android TV; heck, it can link up with Google’s new smartwatch, tablets and game controllers if you so choose. This can be considered a spit in the face of Nintendo, who has tried to bring in the “tablet-style gameplay” with its Wii U. The company will be teaming up with other firms to push out new streaming devices and smart TVs. Companies on tap with this venture include Asus, LG and Razer. Like the Android L, the device will be out this fall, though due to entertainment regional restriction on certain US online services, it may be pushed back for Asian release.

Oh, and for those who love getting their games through Google Play, the store will now have Game Profiles. Similar to Xbox Live for Xbox consoles, users can earn points and achievements to compare with other users in their friends list. Users can also save their game progress mid-game, assuming that the developers wish to add it into their Android games. There’s also a Quests function where developers can create live events in a particular title at a specific time and date. With all this, Google hopes that this increases player engagement, which will lead to monetisation.

It seems that with all of these announcements, gaming on Android platforms may be getting prettier, efficient and possibly more engaging on the already-escalating OS. Personally, we’d wish to see more of how high the Android L can push in terms of graphic fidelity.

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