Google Expands ‘Instant Apps’ to Android Games | News & Opinion

Curious whether an Android game is worth the download? Google is expanding its “instant apps” concept to mobile games to allow for lightning-fast previews of popular titles.

These “instant apps” let you play a portion of the game before committing to a full download. Want to check out Mighty Battles or Clash Royale? Now you can—but without a 100MB download. Each instant app is only 10MB or less in size, and can load on your phone in a few seconds.

Google talked up the technology on Monday at the Game Developers Conference, saying it could help developers entice more consumers to try out their hit titles. The Android OS and Google Play connect millions of consumers to new mobile games every year. But Google noticed that some consumers will refrain from trying new titles when they realize the downloads take time.

“As games have gotten bigger, the time to install has increased, and gamers drop off,” Jonathan Karmel, a Google Play Instant product manager, told PCMag.

Instant apps are Google’s solution. The concept actually debuted back in 2016, but at the time it was mainly introduced for non-gaming apps including BuzzFeed, Vimeo, and gift-buying service Hollar.

MIghty Battles Instant App

Google has been developing instant apps for eight different Android games—all of which are available on the Google Play store on phones that run Android Lollipop (5.0). Just look for the “Try now” button. You’ll also be to find the games in the redesigned Google Play Games app, in the “Arcade” section under “Instant Gameplay.”

The results can be pretty impressive. For instance, Mighty Battles’ instant app lets you play full rounds of game, despite the software utilizing some higher-end graphics. You can do the same with the slimmed-down version of Words with Friends 2.

The obvious drawback with an instant app is you aren’t getting the complete game, but merely a taste that strips out extra features. The apps also don’t save anything to the phone or generate an icon; it’s a one-time experience after you load up the instant app. However, satisfied gamers who want more can then download the full game through the instant app.

The demos have already started to translate into more downloads for game developers. Early tests show a 4 to 15 percent increase in full game app installs, Karmel said.

Although developers are limited to only 10MB per instant app, there’s room to come up with some innovative formats, Karmel said. For example, developers might choose to throw prospective players into level 10 of their game to show them the action head-on, as opposed to giving them a simple tutorial. Instant apps can also be useful to getting reluctant friends hooked on the same game.

For now, instant apps will only be available to a select group of game developers as part of a closed beta program. “At this point we are not announcing a date [for the open beta]. We just want the quality to be where it needs to be,” Karmel added. Google plans to invite additional developers into the closed beta program over time.

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