Google has always had the tools to make mobile gaming on Android devices into a force to take on iOS toe-to-toe, it’s just been a question of having the will and awareness to put them together in a way that makes sense for developers. With the now-underway Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco as a backdrop, that time may have arrived.

On the same day it’s sponsoring a Developer Day at GDC, Google is introducing a range of improvements to the Google Play Games service intended to make it even more attractive to designers and players alike. Chief among them are game gifts, roping in Google+ to allow in-game items to be sent to anyone in a person’s Circles, and the option for direct multiplayer invites through the Play Games app.

The Google Play Store is getting 18 new categories to aid in discoverability, something Google Play Games lead product manager Greg Hartrell told Polygon was sorely needed.




“We’ve never had a role-playing game category,” Hartrell said to Polygon. “There isn’t a music game category. And if you’re into those types of games, you’re relegated to using search right now, or relying on it being recommended to you.”

And because so many mobile games are cross-platform, the Google Play Games service is even getting upgrades to make it play nicer with iOS, including support for real time or turn-based multiplayer across both operating systems. Developers can look forward to extra tools like a Play Games Unity Plug-in, a Play Games C++ SDK, and more statistics available through the Google Play Developer Console.

Last but not least, Google Analytics will have direct access through the AdMob interface with the aim of improving the efficiency of in-app purchase ads.

That’s a lot of words with capital letters, but when you’re Google, you can make anything you want sound important. Find out if any or all of these upgrades are truly significant by watching the Google Developer Day live stream beginning at 1 pm EDT/10 am PDT.