Google have announced they will begin providing official Android App emulation on PC, with Google Play Games coming in 2022.
The announcement came via an advert during The Game Awards 2021, courtesy of a short teaser that only revealed the service was coming to PC in 2022. More details were then provided when Greg Hartrell, Google’s Product Director of Games on Android and Google Play, spoke to The Verge after the show.
“Starting in 2022,” Hartrell explained, “players will be able to experience their favorite Google Play games on more devices, seamlessly switching between a phone, tablet, Chromebook, and soon, Windows PCs. This Google built product brings the best of Google Play Games to more laptops and desktops, and we are thrilled to expand our platform for players to enjoy their favorite Android games even more.”
Google Spokesperson Alex Garcia-Kummert further explained that players can start playing on one device, then resume it on another, even jumping between platforms (like starting from mobile and moving to PC, for example).
Even more impressively, said Garcia-Kummert, this feat will be achieved without cloud gaming, instead being done through local emulation on a given device. Google Play Games will also be made purely by, and will be distributed by, Google.
Google Play Games is currently only slated for release on Windows 10 and higher, with no special integration needed on Windows 11.
According to The Verge, this development comes after Microsoft had been testing Android apps on PC for months, even creating their own subsystem to run them.
Previously, Microsoft worked with Amazon to store Amazon Appstore games and apps on Windows PCs without Google Play support – though this meant less Android games, which was likely a motivating factor in Google Play Games’ creation.
Another notable rival service includes BlueStacks; with BlueStacks X offering web browsers as a way to use Android Apps. All Android and mobile emulators on PC have to make several considerations, and Google will be up against them as well.
While integrating geo-location data and AR cameras into games may not be a top priority – after all, playing games like Pokemon Go at home wouldn’t take advantage of most mechanics – Google Play Games will eventually need to handle multiple touch screen inputs at once, tilting, shaking, and all other unique inputs mobile devices have.
They will also be competing with not just Microsoft and BlueStacks, but also unofficial emulators and the convenience of just using the mobile app on their mobile devices.
The plans for Google Play Games have been known since last year, thanks to the Epic Games vs. Apple trial.
In short, Epic Games offered Fortnite players a way to buy V-Bucks outside of the App Store in August 2020, which Apple claimed was a violation of their ToS, and led to Fortnite being kicked off iOS devices.
After that, the affair became an ongoing legal and PR battle [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10], before a judge finally ruled that the App Store can have links to external payment options. Documents from the trial (dated October 2020), in turn, revealed Google’s aim to get Android games on PC and Mac, including “emulated, native, and streamed games.”
Other companies caught up in the lawsuit included Steam creator Valve, who had to surrender four years of sales data from over 400 games as part of Apple’s attempt to show Epic’s market size.
It also led to Epic Games CEO and Founder Tim Sweeney comparing the lawsuit to the civil rights movement, Epic Games hiring lobbyists in certain US states, and Epic believing their own store won’t be profitable until 2023.
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