You might not have noticed, but a fresh version of Google Play Services started silently rolling out a few days ago. Google I/O came and went without an Android version bump because Google wanted to send a message: Google Play Services is the single most important APK on your device. It was recently used to roll out Google Play Games, cloud app data storage, and the fused location provider. Google can't get OEMs to update Android versions, but there's no way to stop a Play Services update - they're silent and automatic. So, whenever technically possible, that's where Google will be sticking major new features from here on out.

Play Services is now a big deal. Got it? Good. Let's dive right in.

Play Games App Browser

<string name="games_pano_cluster_label_recent_games">Recent games</string>
<string name="games_pano_cluster_label_recent_players">Players</string>
<string name="games_pano_cluster_label_sign_in_required">Sign-in required</string>
<string name="games_pano_sign_in_successful">Sign-in successful.</string>
<string name="games_pano_browse_header_invitations">Invitations</string>
<string name="games_pano_browse_header_recent_games">Recent games</string>
<string name="games_pano_browse_header_all_games">All games</string>
<string name="games_pano_browse_header_multiplayer_games">Popular Multiplayer</string>
<string name="games_pano_browse_header_featured_games">Featured games</string>
<string name="games_pano_browse_header_recent_players">Recent players</string>
<string name="games_pano_browse_header_all_players">All players</string>
<string name="games_pano_browse_header_settings">Settings</string>
<string name="games_pano_player_detail_about">About</string>
<string name="games_pano_player_detail_games">Games</string>
<string name="games_pano_settings_choose_account">Choose account</string>

Ok, so, there is this crazy new thing called "Games_pano" which will show your invitations, recent games, and have game discoverability lists like "popular multiplayer" and "featured games." Most of these are labeled with "games_pano_browse," which sounds a lot like a standalone Play Games discoverability app. I would imagine it would function similarly to Nvidia's TegraZone - half games store; half platform advertisement.

I suppose this could be something that is grafted onto an existing window, but right now, there are no layout files that use these strings. I'm really not sure if this is a standalone app or not. This one is a work in progress.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<launcher version="1">

This is the complete text of "res/xml/launcher_info.xml" - a file which is completely new to the entire internet. I'm sure Google has since picked up on this article, but at the time of writing, a search for what this type of file is for produced exactly 0 hits. So, naturally, I have no idea what this is. It mentions "launcher," but this is definitely not the normal way to make a launcher icon. I also have no idea what is up with the "content://" line. Any ideas?

Play Games Waiting Room

    <string name="games_select_players_title">Multiplayer match</string>
    <string name="games_select_players_empty">No players found.</string>
    <string name="games_select_players_cancel">CANCEL</string>
    <string name="games_select_players_auto_pick_item_label">Auto-pick player</string>
    <string name="games_select_players_auto_pick_chip_name">Auto-pick</string>
    <string name="games_select_players_no_slots_remaining">No more slots</string>
    <string name="games_select_players_no_invitable_players">"No players found. To see people here, add them to your Google+ circles."</string>
    <string name="games_waiting_room_room_status_inviting">Waiting for players</string>
    <string name="games_waiting_room_room_status_auto_matching">Waiting for auto-match</string>
    <string name="games_waiting_room_room_status_connecting">Connecting</string>
    <string name="games_waiting_room_room_status_active">Connected</string>
    <string name="games_waiting_room_menu_start_playing">Start playing</string>
    <string name="games_waiting_room_menu_leave_room">Leave room</string>
    <string name="games_waiting_room_prepare_to_play">Prepare to play</string>
    <string name="games_waiting_room_participant_status_invited">Invited</string>
    <string name="games_waiting_room_participant_status_player_joined">Invitation accepted</string>
    <string name="games_waiting_room_participant_status_automatch_joined">Joined</string>
    <string name="games_waiting_room_participant_status_declined">Invitation declined</string>
    <string name="games_waiting_room_participant_status_left">Left the room</string>

There are strings for a "Games waiting room," which presumably is an extension of the lobby stuff I found in my original Play Games discovery. This looks just like a matchmaking lobby, you wait around for people to join, there are slots for players, invite buttons, a "ready" button, and auto-matching functionality. There's now a layout file for this, so this is much further along than the Play Games browser.

Wild Speculation Bonus Round

  <string name="auth_sign_in_agreement_multi_user">By signing in, you are agreeing to the Google  [blah blah blah]</string>
    <string name="auth_sign_in_agreement_with_chrome">By signing in, you are agreeing to the Google [blah blah blah]</string>
    <string name="auth_sign_in_agreement_with_chrome_multi_user">By signing in, you are agreeing to the Google [blah blah blah]. Remember: Any other user can accept updated app permissions on your behalf. As with any computer, you should only share this tablet with people you trust. "</string>

<string name="auth_chrome_tos_title">Chrome Terms of Service</string>
<string name="auth_chrome_privacy_title">Chrome Privacy Notice</string>


Why is there Chrome stuff in here? Play Games is getting Chrome support?! It makes perfect sense for Google to bring Play Games support to Chrome, but why is this in an Android APK? Can you really "Sign in with Chrome" and use an Android app? There's no way. This has to be a mistake, or a common set of strings between the Android and an upcoming Chrome version of Play Services. Chrome can't run Android apps...

Well, this should provide plenty of fodder for discussions in the comments - have at it.

Ron Amadeo
Ron loves everything related to technology, design, and Google. He always wants to talk about "the big picture" and what's next for Android, and he's not afraid to get knee-deep in an APK for some details. Expect a good eye for detail, lots of research, and some lamenting about how something isn't designed well enough.
  • https://plus.google.com/u/0/108482452903817442299/posts Andrew Bone

    cross platform multiplayer support?

    • http://kennydude.me/ Joe Simpson

      That was the initial intent I got from I/O. Cross-platform = More users on G+

    • http://gamingirl.com Twinkling82

      Could be awesome - and also explain why they are closing down games over at Plus. If they put a good number of good android games in the browser and make crossplay and crosssave to the browser version which is found on google plus...

    • Mothreja Jay


  • RitishOemraw

    When were the Google+ games discontinued again?
    Yeh I'd expect something there....android things.....android things in G+.....android things in G+ in chrome...........

    things = apps :D

    The question now is...WHEN?

    • http://gamingirl.com Twinkling82

      Yeah, I have the same thought, and had for months now.

    • Mothreja Jay

      They should do it like steam sales. Now those are actual sales!!!

      • http://gamingirl.com Twinkling82

        They do from time to time. But how much can a 0.99 game decrease in price? There's not many expensive games on Android if you think about it...

        • Mothreja Jay

          Yeah, but if titles like XCOM can make it.......................

          Or Google could team up with Humble Bundle and give us an indie fiesta!!!

          • http://gamingirl.com Twinkling82

            There has been a few android app on the Humble Bundle. Nothing noticeable though in my opinion.

            XCOM isn't on Android and haven't been announced for it either.

          • Mothreja Jay

            That's exactly what I'm saying, if console tittles make their way to android like they did on iOS, then sales would mean something. 2k might show android some love later on but many companies still think android is not a "worthy" platform. As for Humble Bundle tittles, the best one so far is Frozen Synapse. It's an awesome strategy game, believe me.

  • Thomas’

    Just include the goddamn Dalvik runtime into Chrome, ffs. ;-)

    • randomchars

      It's not that simple.

      • Thomas’

        Well, it can not be that hard if Blackberry managed to port it onto another mobile OS. Dalvik already exists for x86 systems.

  • Nick Bieter

    Chrome can't run Android apps... yet.


    • https://plus.google.com/u/0/108482452903817442299/posts Andrew Bone

      Maybe that is what the 25th is about :o

      • portalpirate


      • PhilNelwyn


    • mikeym0p

      It would compete great with Windows 8 side screening modern apps, Ubuntu's sideshow and would make chromeOS much more capable. I hope for that, or chrome apps in android.

    • http://mikuia.tv Maxorq

      it can now! :D

  • Roberto Giunta
  • Michael Sheils

    Chrome supporting Android apps needs to happen at some point.

    • Thomas’

      With more and more notebooks having touchscreens, this would even make sense for the used UIs.

  • Simon Boulet

    There has already experiment by Google of game that you play part on your phone, and part on your desktop (on Chrome in both). Maybe the with_chrome come from there?

    • Justin W

      With those apps, some (in fact, most I think) worked with other browsers that weren't just Chrome (like Safari, Mozilla, etc.).

  • Tamadrummer94

    Man is that an ugly controller icon...

    But this is an interesting development indeed.

    • Daniel DS

      Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I personally find it pretty cool.

      • Matthew Fry

        It certainly is curious if you really think about it. It's an icon that's supposed to represent games on a touchscreen based mobile OS yet it's a picture of a controller. I get that it's the easiest way to visually indicate "game" but that in itself is a bit telling.

  • PhilNelwyn

    "Can you really "Sign in with Chrome" and use an Android app? There's no way."

    I've seen something like that... in the Play Store app.
    But that's not really what you meant, is it?

    • Peter Peon

      For two step auth with sms

      • PhilNelwyn

        It's for adding an existing account.

        • http://www.impulsivestudios.com/ Justin Myers

          If you have two step authentication on, this will fail. You have to sign in from the browser. I root, change ROMs and have 2step on.

          • PhilNelwyn

            Ah, ok, I've got it now.

  • Jeffrey Smith

    No sign of in-app rate & review. Maybe next time.

  • donghaomin

    Run Android apps on chrome --- Don't you guys think this might have something to do with The Breakfast with Sundar Pichai? Who "happens" to be the head of both Chrome and Android.

    • Justin W

      Yes, but it's likely more about Android than Chrome.

      • Liam Higgins

        And by that you mean "I'm hoping it's more about Android"...

        • Justin W

          That may be part of it, but we've seen several Android 4.3 and Nexus 7 leaks lately, that it would only make sense that they would be announcing it soon. The timing is just perfect for it.

          • Justin Swanson

            Why not announce or preview the ability to use Android Apps in Chrome OS/Chrome browser or even Chromium?

            Then at the end... "Oh, btw... you know, cloud saves? Yeah those would also be accessible from the Chrome variants."

            It'd be nice to continue a game from my desktop that I was playing on my phone/tablet.

            Why do you ask? Great question, because I don't have a lot of time on my desktop anyways and being able to check a game where I have to pick up resources would be nice from the browser. :)

  • Dude!

    Chrome + Android = PNaCl, anyone?

  • gramps

    Didn't Chrome get a permission to handle accounts some time last month?

  • Uzhbart

    What happened actually to cloud save games? None of my games do this yet..

    • Justin W

      It has to be implemented by the developers themselves. I don't know that it was a completed feature at the time it was announced (I assume it was, but I don't recall). It'll show up, but I don't know what apps will utilize it. My guess is the apps that support Play Games (multiplayer) will support backing up to the cloud.

      • Justin Swanson

        Spacetime Games implemented it with Battle Dragons, their new Beta Game.

        • Mothreja Jay

          The more games support it the better. ;)

    • Mothreja Jay

      Riptide GP has cloud save, any others I'm not sure. The sequel will support cloud from day one.

  • Max Barlow

    Anyone actually seen the Chinese site that copy's AP word for word? http://www.tuicool.com/articles/VJjaEz

    • Kangerang

      Learn to use Google Translate before judging something you don't even know, my friend. That's a site which picks articles with quality and popularity automatically from all over the web using some algo, and filter them to personalize your reading.
      And btw, they always give the source link right under the title.

      • Max Barlow

        Fair enough, assumed with a brief glance, haha my bad!

  • Aaron Rietschlin

    The "content://" is typically the scheme of a "Content URI" typically used to get data from a database through use of a ContentProvider similar to the way http:// is the scheme for web addresses (http://developer.android.com/guide/topics/providers/content-provider-basics.html).

    As an Android developer, that file is completely new to me. No idea what that is. I'm assuming that "com.google.android.gms.games.pano/launcher" will point to the launch screen of teh "GamesPano" application where "com.google.android.gms.games.pano" is the package name of the app. How this ties in to the content URI...not sure.

    Again, those are just assumptions.

    • Justin Swanson

      Thanks for the insight! I was looking for a comment just like this :D

  • http://www.bordersweather.co.uk/ Andy J

    Actually - Chrome is supposed to be getting the ability to run packaged apps......

  • ginobili

    I hope they fix they way you invite people for matchmaking. Everytime you have to find in the whole list of Google+ friends for the person that you wanna play with, instead of showing the recent players or something like this.

    • Justin W

      Is there even a search option?

      Also, does the Play Games work cross platform (like Android devices and iOS devices can play multi-player together)? I don't recall from the event if that was mentioned.

      • ginobili

        No, there isn't even a search option. So you have to go all the way down till' you find the person you wanna play with.

        I don't think that you can play cross platform games.

  • Zhuowei

    Or maybe Chrome wants to move parts of Chrome Sync into GMS?

  • fonix232

    I'd rather guess the "Pano" is something like the start screen of the XBox app on Windows 8, listing your games, recent games, and gives access to the list of games (generated from the Play Store, or just directs you there?). It seems more of a game control center slash overview than an interface for shopping.

  • Kyle Owens

    Anyone notice after the update that you stay signed into your games even without a data connection?

  • Gethin Neagle

    Here is a link for a list of *nearly all the apps that support Google Play Games Services.