How Android Will Change Gaming

So for those who weren't following Google's I/O conference yesterday: holy cow! Google made a ton of announcements that were pretty incredible. And many of those announcements have  a direct correlation to the gaming industry. Let's break down what happened piece by piece.

Chrome Web Store: First off, Google has set its sights on creating an application marketplace around Web apps. One issues this Web store attempts to combat is the challenge to user discovery of Web applications. It's really hard to find cool flash programs or Web apps online. Usually you have to read a blog post titled "15 of the best xyz" in order to find the good ones. By corralling them all into one place, Google will allow sorting Web apps by rating, popularity, etc. The second issue they're tackling is user valuation of Web app properties. Users pay subscription rates for access to Web apps, or they expect free access, but a one-time upfront fee hasn't resonated with the market. This has required games to aggregate on portal sites that sell memberships, or to offer themselves as a software download. The Chrome Web Store will allow Web game developers to sell their games to users on a per-game basis.

Android 2.2: Don't be fooled. Android is a more advanced mobile OS than the upcoming iPhone 4.0 release. Apple is a master of UI design, but the underpinnings of the release pale in comparison to what Android is up to. This is best evidenced by the fact that about half of the seven tentpole features Apple announced for iPhone 4.0, Android already had. Now, Google is pushing the envelope farther with Android 2.2, code-named "Froyo." First off, it has Flash 10.1 and can run AIR apps. Then, they made an update so that many of the third- party apps will now be running two to five times faster. In addition, they brought the Chrome javascript engine to the mobile browser, so that its javascript rendering (a major underpinning of HTML 5 performance) runs circles around even the iPad. All of these updates should be extremely attractive to Web game developers.

Google TV: There is also a case to be made for developing games on Android natively. One of the major announcements at Google I/O was Google TV. This software solution will be built into some Sony TVs and sold as a set-top box later this year. What's particularly interesting is that it will be running Android, including the ability for developers to create apps to run on the TV. It will also be running Chrome, which will theoretically give it access to the aforementioned Chrome Web Store. This brings both Android and Chrome Web gaming to the living room TV. Last week, Jeremy Mayes wrote about gaming on the iPad (great post and worth a read if you haven't already). But while the iPad was a marginally larger and still single-user device, the TV is a proven place for great gaming experiences. The trick here will be the interface for Google TV. If it's a remote or a Bluetooth keyboard, this won't be a revolution -- but hopefully it will end up as an interface that is a bit more inspired.

These changes lay the groundwork for some very exciting times in Web and mobile game publishing. For mobile games, the iPhone ecosystem will remain king for a while, but for cross-platform casual game experiences, Google is carving out a serious niche.

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