When Google takes the stage at Google I/O in May, the company just might introduce a new gaming experience for Android users that is similar to Apple's Game Center.
Speculation about a "Game Center for Android" picked up after Android Police found some clues to the new feature buried inside the recently released Google Glass companion app, My Glass. The new Google service is expected to have features such as the ability to challenge your friends, have in-game chats, track gaming achievements, and view leaderboards. Google was unavailable for comment at the time of this writing.
The Android-focused site uncovered a purported 'Google Games' feature after digging through the application package (APK) for My Glass and looking at the directories for Google Play Services. Developers use Google Play Services to access Google product features inside their apps such as Google+ sign-in or map tiles. One of the directories inside My Glass was named 'games,' a previously unknown Google service, which Android Authority believes was shipped with the app by mistake.
There was no interface to go along with the games folder, but the naming conventions of the files inside make it pretty clear what a future Google Games service would be able to do. There are references to matchmaking for real-time and turn-based multiplayer games so you can play Android games online with your friends. The new games feature may also support in-game chats, but it seems only geared for real-time multiplayer games. Other standard gaming platform features are also supported such as an achievements tracker, leaderboards, invitations, and a gaming lobby.
The prospect of a Game Center-like feature for Android is long overdue as many other major mobile device platforms already include such capabilities. Microsoft incorporated Xbox gaming into Windows Phone and Windows 8, while Amazon rolled out GameCircle last July for the company's Android-based Kindle Fire platform.
Apple's iOS, Android's biggest rival, has included Game Center since 2010; that feature later came to OS X devices with the release of Mountain Lion. Apple's gaming central command has run into criticism recently for its reliability, with complaints about disconnections during multi-player gameplay and syncing errors. Presumably, Google with its heavy focus on cloud services such as Gmail, Google Drive, and Chrome tab sync would fare better than Apple in this respect. Game Center also lacks in-game text chat, which appears headed to Google's gaming platform.
Perhaps the most important feature of an upcoming Google game center would be the question of whether the service would include a standalone app or if it would be baked right into games that use it instead. One of my complaints with iOS's Game Center is that you can't just wipe the app off your device since it's integrated with Apple's mobile platform; instead, the best you can do is banish it to an unwanted apps folder where you won't see it as often.
For those who want it, though, a Google-supported gaming platform supporting friendly match ups, leaderboards, and achievements would be a welcome addition.