Take mobile gaming to the next level with location

Games are all about creating worlds and stories.  The richer the world, the more immersive the gaming. The earliest video games were limited to flat, two-dimensional screen. But even so, Pong was awesome. Believe us, we played a lot of Pong (not to mention the several decades of games that followed). But gamers today want more. Detailed storytelling and immersive world building are now a standard in games. This means there’s increasing expectation for game worlds to be realistic 3D environments on larger scales.


At the same time this shift was happening in gaming, smartphones, big data and machine learning have propelled maps from a flat image on paper to a highly-personalized, living model of the world. And it was at the intersection of these two things that we saw the chance to build something to enable developers to create a whole new class of gaming experiences. This is why we launched Google Maps Platform’s gaming solution last year.

In the last year, five games launched on our platform and we’ve learned a lot about real-world games.

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Location unlocks AR and social gameplay

Rich, dynamic, and contextual location data allows game developers to augment and enhance social and AR gaming experiences. This is why three of the top 10 ARCore games(1) in the last year were built on Google Maps Platform.

When it comes to location-driven social, players can not only team up, but also have their unique location enrich multiplayer gaming. Next Games learned how powerful this can be in The Walking Dead: Our World. In the game, players form groups, known as guilds, and are able to send flares to allow other players in the same guild to virtually join them at their location to complete missions around the flare.

When we asked about the impact location has had on the social experience of their game, Director Riku Suomela said, “If we didn’t have geolocation, the current system with social wouldn’t work.” In fact, ninety percent of the game’s daily active users are in a guild, and three out of every four players play the game with friends(2), so social engagement is high.

Location increases player engagement and retention

Today, gamers are people of every age and walk of life. They are rushing commuters, busy shoppers, and people just going about their daily lives. Incorporating location into a mobile game helps developers make game play more immersive and more personal. Every new location gives players a chance to engage with a game differently.

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Location can add new life to an existing mobile game

When we started building Google Maps Platform’s gaming offer, we had a simple idea in mind: give developers the tools to build brand new real-world games. But thanks to creative partners, we realized the possibilities are even broader than we expected. Real-world games don’t need to be built from scratch––we’ve seen location intelligence bring new life to existing games, as well.

mixi recently added a map mode to Monster Strike(4). In 2018, it became the highest-grossing mobile app of all time(5)Monster Strike was already a popular game but when mixi began re-engaging their user base with location-based in-game features, they saw a 30% increase in daily sessions per user, plus 50% of users who engaged with the location component played the game for 5 or more consecutive days. With mixi, we learned that game developers don’t need to wait for their next game release to start incorporating location into their gameplay. It can be a powerful new dimension to an existing game.

Location-driven features and real-world gameplay do a lot more than just add to the experience of a game. They redefine it. We think this has incredible potential even beyond what we’ve already seen, and we’re excited to work with developers around the world to bring more real-world gaming experiences to life with Google Maps Platform.

Google Maps Platform gaming solution

Just over two years ago we launched our gaming solution to bring real-world games to life, starting with a limited group of game studios. Since then, 10 games, played by more than 11 million players each month, have been built with Google Maps Platform. But almost immediately after launch, we recognized the interest from independent game studios and developers to build their own real world games.


So we set out to build a scalable infrastructure that would extend access to all developers and allow them to sign up and quickly get started online. Starting today, we’ve opened our gaming solution to all mobile game developers to create engaging, immersive real-world games.

Get started in minutes 

For the first time, game developers can get started online to quickly build mobile games with Google Maps Platform. Just follow the onboarding flow to create a billing account, set up a Google Cloud Project, and then download the Maps SDK for Unity. Once you do that, the Semantic Tile API and Playable Locations API will be automatically enabled for you. Our quickstart documentation will guide you through the SDK installation so you can start building games.

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Customize game worlds and determine the best places for gameplay

Our gaming solution gives you the flexibility to either bring the real world into your game or take your game out into the real world. The Maps SDK for Unity gives you the tools to create and customize a game world based on real world locations, while the Playable Locations API helps you find the best locations to place real-world gameplay. Since the initial launch, we’ve added features like Mixed Zoom and Pathfinding to improve the in-game experience for your players.

Mixed zoom renders a high level of detail for areas close to a player, while areas further away display progressively lower levels of detail. Rendering vector tiles at distance-dependent zoom levels, with a horizon in the far distance, helps you generate maps that span thousands of meters or more, while using considerably less processing. You can also create game worlds that not only occupy a bird’s eye view, but that zoom out to much larger areas.

Pathfinding enables you to bring new life to your in-game characters–anything from directing monsters to chase a player around, to flying a plane to drop off supplies at a safe house, to collaborating on missions through a futuristic city. We help you connect game worlds with the real world.

With access to hundreds of millions of 3D building geometries and urban settings like parks and roads as objects in Unity, you can create immersive gameplay personalized for each player. And our coverage of more than 220 countries and territories means you’re able to do this at a global scale.

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Push the limit of real-world games

So far we’ve seen an array of real-world gameplay created with Google Maps Platform–catching and hatching dinosaursbirdwatching, and everything in between. We’ve also seen studios quickly transform their games to address changing player behavior–like needing to play from home while sheltering in place.

Our gaming solution also gives you the opportunity to breathe new life into existing games by adding a real-world mode to re-engage your user base with location-based in-game features.

Whether you’re a developer who’s always wanted to build a game, an established studio ready to kick-off development with a major IP holder, or a business that just wants to see what our real-world data and AR can do for your business, we can’t wait to see what you build.

Visit us here to learn more about our latest announcements and look back at 15 years of collaboration with Google Maps Platform.