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Google packs in new gaming features for devs, players

The company is adding a smorgasbord of new Play Games features, just in time for the independently run Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Google took a big step over the weekend to address problems with in-game purchases, but that's not all that the company has in store for game developers this week.

As the annual Game Developers Conference kicks off at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, Google has announced several improvements to Play Games on Monday that the company says will take several weeks to become available.

Game Gifts, a new feature, will let players send virtual in-game objects to anyone in their Google+ Circles or through player search, just as in other social-media-driven games. The Play Games app will add support for multiplayer game invites, and the Google Play Store is adding 18 new game categories for faster game search.

Multiplayer gameplay is coming to iOS, bringing it up to par with Android, which the Play Games Unity plug-in is being updated to support. Google is giving developers a rough version of a Play Games C++ SDK, which will support achievements and leaderboards, and a Play Games statistics section on the Google Play Developer Console. It will showcase the number of active daily users and offer retention analysis, as well as achievement and leaderboard performance.

Finally, Google is introducing its Google Analytics tools into its AdMob interface, so that developers can better understand how players are actually playing with their games. Developers also will be able to show players targeted in-app purchase ads, demonstrating that, as with Apple, targeted in-game purchases might be getting tweaked, but the lawsuits against it hardly mean game over for game makers plying their wares.