March 19, 2018 / 5:03 PM / in 9 months

Google courts game developers with expanded services lineup

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Alphabet Inc’s Google on Monday unveiled new tools for game developers, days after opening Maps to create location-based online games, challenging technology rivals including Amazon.com Inc in the bid for a bigger slice of the lucrative industry.

Google is showing off the tools at this week’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco as it seeks to boost licensing fees from games, which dominate Google’s Play store. Amazon and Facebook Inc are also holding workshops for developers at the conference as they vie for increased advertising and licensing revenue.

The number of users of Google’s Android smartphones and mobile devices who installed a game in the last year more than doubled over the previous year, Google said on Monday.

It has traditionally made money on gaming by selling advertisements, taking a cut of in-game purchases or hosting data.

“Everything we’ve done on Play and Android to support game developers is being extended to several Google products,” Purnima Kochikar, who leads business development for Google’s Play app store, said in an interview.

Managers of other Google units had begun thinking about gaming in “a very nuanced way,” she added.

The new features include a way for Android users to try apps without a complete download.

Last week, Google’s cloud division released a service for developers to set up fast connections between players across the world. Google also said game developers would be able to use customized renderings and other data from Maps inside games.

For example, a game emulating the 2016 hit Pokemon Go, which requires people to visit real-world locations, can purchase up-to-date data from Google on places that are safe to send people to and are popular or off-the-beaten-path.

Upcoming mobile games based on entertainment franchises such as “The Walking Dead” and “Ghostbusters” have incorporated the technology.

In an interview, Teemu Huuhtanen, chief executive of Walking Dead gamemaker Next Games, described the location services as “huge” for the industry.

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“Google Maps is not the only way to get location-based games done, but honestly it’s the best,” he said. “These companies that can support us with tools and technology, we want to be in closer relationship with then.”

Kochikar said a Google engineering director plans to meet developers at this week’s conference to brainstorm uses for machine learning, a form of artificial intelligence that enables data analysis and prediction.

Google’s hardware team is talking to companies about tailoring games for touchscreen laptops that run its Chrome OS operating system, Kochikar said.

Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Richard Chang

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