Google Play Games doesn't get much attention these days, but that doesn't mean there haven't been some changes. We're wrapping together everything that's different in the last few versions, plus touching on some new things that are coming in the future.
Unofficial Changelog: (the stuff we found)
- Added: Setting to disable autoplay videos
- Added: Search
- Removed: Settings to disable Quest and Request notifications (v5.9)
- Added: Snake (v5.8)
- Added: YouTube links under games in the carousel (v5.8)
- Changed: White nav bar (v5.8)
There are some new screens for in limited rollout
Player profile screen
Left: Old look. Right: New look.
It looks like there is a new progress screen rolling out to a small group of users. The layout is obviously quite different. Images of the avatar and achievements are larger and more prominently displayed. The row for 'Players you follow" has been turned into a separate page in the third tab (Giocatori -> Players). The breakdown of XP by genre has either been removed or it's displayed elsewhere.
This version of the progress screen may not appear for everybody yet, but it should probably roll out to the rest of us in the near future. Notably, the big line of text congratulating users on their level is brand new to the v5.10 update (it's covered down in the teardown section), so it's safe to say this screen probably isn't available unless you're on the latest version. – Thanks, Lukis24.
The "Hub" tab
Originally spotted in the v5.6 teardown, there's a new Hub tab coming to the navigation bar. The Hub contains articles from gaming news sites. It's similar to the Google News app, but with far more controversial topics. (I'm only half-joking.)
It seems this and the new player profile screen are going live for a small group, but should probably appear for everybody fairly soon. – Thanks, Lukis24.
Changes in Settings, including Autoplay videos
Left: v5.8. Center: v5.9. Right: v5.10.
Each of the recent releases to Games has included at least one change to the Settings screen, but most of them haven't actually been particularly significant.
In the move from v5.8 to v5.9, Google removed the options to enable or disable quest and request notifications. This change was actually expected since both features were retired earlier back in March.
With the latest version, we're now gaining a new toggle to control whether videos are allowed to autoplay. This setting determines whether the thumbnail-sized frames in the Arcade tab will animate to show gameplay. This is a good addition, the animated frames were a little manic.
It might not stand out among all of the other larger buttons, but there's a brand new search button sitting at the top of the main screen. Tapping on it reveals a list of trending games, but you can begin typing to get suggestions, then hit the search button on your keyboard to see the full list with animated videos.
New Game: Snake (v5.8)
The list of built-in games has grown to four in number. Snake, one of the true classic games from the days of dumb phones, is joining Solitaire, Cricket, and PAC-MAN.
Left: v5.7. Right: v5.8.
There was also a palette swap from v5.7 to v5.8 as the recently added tab bar at the bottom was moved to a white background.
On the one hand, the green background was a bit awkward and not very attractive; but on the other hand, the tabs for My games and Arcade now appear to be hovering in empty space, as is the Library indicator above them. Maybe it's time to slot the Library in as a middle tab so the whole thing looks a bit more uniform.
One final addition came in v5.8 that adds a link to a YouTube video for the games in your carousel. The videos appear to be randomly chosen, but they always seem to include gameplay footage. Not all games will get links to videos.
The features discussed below are probably not live yet, or may only be live for a small percentage of users. Unless stated otherwise, don't expect to see these features if you install the apk. All screenshots and images are real unless otherwise stated, and images are only altered to remove personal information.
It seems like we're inching ever closer to the age of darkness. Several different Google apps have shown signs of upcoming dark modes, and now we can add Play Games to that illustrious list. Labels have been added for a new dark theme that would skin Play Games so it won't be quite so blinding in dark settings.
<string name="games_settings_dark_theme_subtitle">Enable dark theme throughout the app</string>
The description states that the entire app will take on the dark color scheme, but it isn't exactly clear about the little logged-in banner that pops up in games when they sign in or when you gain a level. These floating dialogs might not be very large, but they can still be pretty overpowering against a dark background.
It's not all that important, but Google technically revealed some of the statistics about the current division of gamers based on their levels. New strings have been added that give commentary each time a level is gained.
For the first few levels, you'll merely get some encouraging words to keep playing, and it vaguely states that more than 50% of players have hit level 5. Upon reaching level 9, the phrasing becomes more specific as it states 25% of gamers are level 10 or above. From here, each level includes fairly specific percentages.
<string name="games__profile__xp_blurb_level_1">Let\'s get started! Earn achievements to level up.</string>
<string name="games__profile__xp_blurb_level_2">Nice work, you\'ve earned your first 1,000 XP!</string>
<string name="games__profile__xp_blurb_level_3">Each achievement is a step towards leveling up.</string>
<string name="games__profile__xp_blurb_level_4">More than half of all gamers are above level 5! Keep playing to level up!</string>
<string name="games__profile__xp_blurb_level_5">Level 5 XP blurb</string>
<string name="games__profile__xp_blurb_level_6">Level 6 XP blurb</string>
<string name="games__profile__xp_blurb_level_7">Level 7 XP blurb</string>
<string name="games__profile__xp_blurb_level_8">Level 8 XP blurb</string>
<string name="games__profile__xp_blurb_level_9">Level 10 will put you in top 25% of gamers!</string>
<string name="games__profile__xp_blurb_level_10">Level 11 will put you in top 15% of gamers!</string>
<string name="games__profile__xp_blurb_level_11">Level 12 will put you in top 12% of gamers!</string>
<string name="games__profile__xp_blurb_level_12">Level 13 will put you in top 10% of gamers!</string>
<string name="games__profile__xp_blurb_level_13">Level 14 will put you in top 8% of gamers!</string>
<string name="games__profile__xp_blurb_level_14">Level 15 will put you in top 5% of gamers!</string>
<string name="games__profile__xp_blurb_level_15">Level 16 will put you in top 5% of gamers!</string>
<string name="games__profile__xp_blurb_level_16">Level 17 will put you in top 2.5% of gamers!</string>
<string name="games__profile__xp_blurb_level_17">Level 18 will put you in top 2% of gamers!</string>
<string name="games__profile__xp_blurb_level_18">Level 19 will put you in top 1.5% of gamers!</string>
<string name="games__profile__xp_blurb_level_19">Level 20 will put you in top 1% of gamers!</string>
<string name="games__profile__xp_blurb_level_20_to_29">Congratulations, you are in the top 1% of gamers! You are awesome!</string>
<string name="games__profile__xp_blurb_level_30_to_44">Congratulations, you are in the top 0.1% of gamers! You are spectacular!</string>
<string name="games__profile__xp_blurb_level_45_to_max">Congratulations, you are in the top 0.01% of gamers! You are one of the best!</string>
It's clear that there's a pretty significant drop-off as levels hit the double digits. There's also a strange repetition of 5% for both level 14 and 15, which could mean there's a statistical gap where almost everybody that made it that high was able to keep going... or more likely, somebody forgot to change that line to 3% or 4%.
By the time you reach level 20, you're in the elite 1%. Actually, the true elites which account for only 0.01% of players, are level 45 or higher. As a level 34 myself, I'm now questioning my life choices.
The APK is signed by Google and upgrades your existing app. The cryptographic signature guarantees that the file is safe to install and was not tampered with in any way. Rather than wait for Google to push this download to your devices, which can take days, download and install it just like any other APK.