Google makes its Maps Platform gaming solution available for all mobile developers

Ryan Cassidy, product manager for the Google Maps Platform, talks to GameDaily about the decision to make the API widely available, and the future of location-based gaming.

In 2018, Google launched an initiative that allowed game developers to utilize its Google Maps application programming interface to build real-world games for the mobile platform. At the time, the API was limited to only a handful of mobile developers, but earlier this month Google opened up the platform to all studios via the Unity game engine. 

“When the Google Maps API launched 15 years ago, it enabled a string of innovations we never would have imagined,” Ryan Cassidy, product manager of the Google Maps Platform, told GameDaily. “By making maps easy to implement and mashup with new datasets, we saw businesses grow, existing industries transform, and new industries emerge. We’re hoping our gaming solution is a catalyst yet again.”

Cassidy pointed to a pair of successful mobile augmented reality games that have been built using the Google Maps Platform in the last couple of years, such as Dragon Quest Walk, which was downloaded more than 10 million times during its first two months, and Jurassic World Alive, which has been downloaded more than 15 million times. By opening up the Google Maps gaming solution API to all mobile developers, Cassidy hopes to see further innovation in the AR space.

Regarding the two-year period where Google limited the number of developers who had access to the platform, Cassidy said that his team wanted to be sure that it was going to meet the needs of as many developers as possible.

“If our history in mapping has taught us anything, it’s that it’s nearly impossible to predict who will drive the next great innovation,” he explained. “Therefore, it was incredibly important for us to be confident that we got the foundations right before we offered it more broadly. Now that we’re putting this tool in a broader set of hands, we’re excited to see where things go.”

Announced at GDC 2018, Cassidy said the gaming solution aspect of the Google Maps Platform is the result of tireless monitoring of tech and gaming trends. Not all trends are worth pursuing, especially as most major breakthroughs in the sector need to be able to scale to hundreds of millions of users worldwide, an endeavour that requires enormous capital and resources. AR-based mobile gaming, however, is one area that appealed greatly to Cassidy and Google.

And for good reason. Easily the most lucrative sector of the games business, analyst group Newzoo predicted that the mobile platform could generate upwards of $77.2 billion in revenue in 2020. Helping matters is the coronavirus pandemic, which has resulted in a sharp rise in gaming activity and revenue since March.

While games as an industry has benefited from quarantine orders, Cassidy said that pandemic conditions have forced developers to reexamine the practicality of location-based mobile gaming.

“The events of the last few months have challenged the assumptions around real-world gameplay, with many games needing to pivot from location-based gaming to real-world gaming in order to accommodate for shelter-in-place orders,” he said. “Fortunately, our solution supported both types of game development, and developers like Krikey were able to turn their location-based game into a play-at-home game. We know developers are already looking at our gaming solution and seeing innovative ways to entertain and help audiences wherever they are. We're watching this trend closely and optimistic it's a compelling case for real-world gaming.”

By opening up the Google Maps Platform gaming solution to all developers, Cassidy hopes that the technology will result in the next big mobile heavy hitter. 

“We’ve only scratched the surface in terms of the genres and types of real world games that can be built,” he said. “There’s a lot of creativity and untapped potential out there and we are so excited to help provide these tools and services to enable that.”

That untapped potential, especially as it pertains to real-world and AR-based gaming, is going to be a big part of gaming’s future on the mobile platform, according to Cassidy. It’s hard to deny the appeal when you consider the overwhelming success of Pokémon Go, and the strong performance of the greater mobile gaming sector. Making Google Maps Platform’s gaming solution available to all developers is clearly a smart business move, and it will be interesting to see what projects result from this move.

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Editor-in-Chief

Sam, the Editor-in-Chief of GameDaily.biz, is a former freelance game reporter. He's been seen at IGN, PCGamesN, PCGamer, Unwinnable, and many more. When not writing about games, he is most likely taking care of his two dogs or pretending to know a lot about artisan coffee. Get in touch with Sam by emailing him at sam.desatoff@gamedaily.biz or follow him on Twitter.