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Google Play Games service levels up with cross-platform multiplayer and more

The SDK's functionality is being upgraded significantly, and lead product manager Greg Hartrell walks Gamasutra through the upgrades.
Google Play Games launched last year as a cross-platform competitor to Apple's Game Center, with achievements, leaderboards, cloud saves, and social features. Now, the SDK and service offering is being upgraded to include cross-platform multiplayer (both turn-based/asynchronous and realtime/synchronous) between iOS and Android, including an invite system. Google is also updating its Unity plugin to support this functionality. The SDK will also launch a service known as "gifts" -- "at a technical level it's a service that allows you to trade a blob of data between multiple users," says Google Play Games' lead product manager Greg Hartrell. This data can be used as items, notifications, or even a simple trade system. The company is also upgrading the Play Games Statistics analytics offerings in the SDK to offer better data, as well as adding the ability to advertise in-app purchases to players using its toolset, as well as upgrading AdMob analytics functionality. Finally, Google is adding support for games that are natively coded in C++ to use its leaderboard and achievements system. Importantly, Hartrell is happy for developers to use "bits and pieces" of the system as best befits their games -- "every game has a slightly different slant," he says -- and he maintains that rather than an ad for Google+, it's a suite of developer services that are best leveraged by developers as they see fit. "There's a really simple principle here, a Google principle in a lot of ways, but we translate it into games -- we want to make our services available to as many people as possible," says Hartrell. "... from a developer's perspective it's about building a community of players across any screen they can get hold of." "Developers use other social network tools to build community," recognizes Hartrell. "Google Play Games, at the end of the day, is a core gaming system that's focused on games... We're committed to having a service that more caters directly to developers." Flexibility is "the name of the game for us," says Hartrell. "We're interested in enhancing games and hoping that game developers have the flexibility" to create the game designs they want. For more information, you can read Google's official blog post on the upgrade. Google will be showcasing the upgraded version of Google Play Games at GDC during its developer day presentations, which will also be livestreamed on YouTube this Tuesday starting at 10 AM Pacific time.

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