If you've been keeping tabs in the mobile space recently then you might have heard of something called Google Play Game Services, details of which were leaked out onto the net and showed an online gaming service for Android similar to Apples Game Center or Microsoft's Xbox Live service. Today at Google I/O, the search giant's annual developer conference, Google Play Game Services was officially unveiled, and the big surprise was that it's cross-platform, supporting not just Android but the web and even iOS.
Google Play Game Services will feature the ability to host online multiplayer, leaderboards, achievements, and cloud saving. While the service itself will be cross-platform, currently the online multiplayer functionality will remain Android-only. It doesn't sound like it's a technical limitation or anything, just that Google wants to start out slow with this service and all signs point to multiplayer being cross-platform at some point in the future.
The Google Play Game Services is live as of today, and you can grab the SDK from Google's developer portal right now. It's a service that gets baked right into each game, not a separate standalone experience like Apple's Game Center, and is more akin to something like the now defunct OpenFeint. You'll use Google+ to log into the service and your profile will be kept in the cloud so you can just sign on and access everything no matter which device you're using.
Now, I'm pretty vocal about hating when games use Facebook for all their social/online shenanigans, but here's the thing: go ahead Google and use Google+ for this, it gives me a reason to actually use your service for once. I could totally see having my Google+ account be full of gaming friends, whereas Facebook is full of family and friends which I don't really care to spam with a bunch of iPhone gaming junk. So yeah, Google+ is a-ok with me.
Anyway, it's an interesting turn of events, and a smart one in my opinion. Google is interested in having as many users use their services as possible, not matter what platform they're using to access them. I was initially surprised to hear iOS support for Game Services, but it makes total sense. It will be interesting to see if it ends up being a disruption in the iOS gaming world or just yet another thing to log into when firing up a game.