Android 12 will offer games a new feature of interest to gamers when it lands on your Android phone later this year. You'll be able to play games before they've even finished downloading to your device.
The announcement, made during this week's Google for Games Developer Summit, effectively removes a stumbling block from the Google Play games ecosystem. It will also make it easier for players to discover a new game and start playing it (almost) immediately to see if they enjoy it — a huge deal for gamers as well as app makers.
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For gamers, it means downloading and playing games with hefty file sizes will be a little more enjoyable with Android 12. Games must use Google's Play Asset Delivery System in order for this new functionality to work; those that do won't require any additional labor on devs' part to enable the "play mid-download" feature.
⏱️⬇️ "Play as you download" reduces download times, lets your players into games sooner, and requires minimal engineering changes! See how it's available in #Android12 now at this LIVE #GoogleforGames session → https://t.co/REy73uWEVU pic.twitter.com/HvL7YKqyFvJuly 12, 2021
In addition to the ability to play games mid-download, Google confirmed (opens in new tab) that Android 12 will bring a new game dashboard to "select devices" that will give you the ability to do things like enable screen recording, adjust brightness, or switch between multiple optimization modes (to prioritize battery life or game performance, for example) while you're playing a game. We haven't heard any details yet on which devices will get this new game dashboard, but it's a safe bet that Google's flagship hardware (like the Pixel phones) will be among the first — especially the Pixel 6 since it's likely to ship with Android 12 installed this fall.
These are significant improvements to Android as a game platform, and we expect to see even more before the final version of Android 12 debuts in late summer/early fall. The ability for players to start playing games mid-download should also be a small boon to Android game developers, as there's less of a chance someone will download your game and never get around to playing it.
While we'll have to wait a few months to see how this feature looks in the final version of Android 12, beta versions of Google's next big Android release are already available — and they reveal some stunning visual changes that make Android 12 feel like the biggest Android design overhaul since 2014. Read our Android 12 beta hands-on to get a glimpse of the next big thing in Android, check out our guide to how to install the Android 12 beta right now if you're curious to see it for yourself, and stay tuned for our full review later this year.