From the evidence we could gather, Google has been working on adding a lot more gaming features to its Pixel phones. While we’ve already seen first UI experiments for a game mode, we almost forgot about another intriguing feature that was first rumored a long time ago — an option that lets you start playing games as they’re still being downloaded from the Play Store. Google announced during its Google for Games Developer Summit that it would bring just that feature to Android 12.
During the announcement, Google said that the feature will be aptly named “Play as you download.” It will be built into the core of Android 12 and will allow you to get started on a game you’re downloading “in seconds” while assets not relevant to the first few levels are being downloaded in the background. Google already ran some experiments on the feature and noticed that games are ready to open “at least 2 times faster,” elaborating that 400MB big games take “as little as ten seconds to fully load.” Parallelly, Google is also working on reducing games’ download sizes altogether with improvements to texture compression.
Left: Regular Play Store listing. Right: Listing with Play as you download.
Eligible games will be marked with a lighting icon on the install button in the Play Store. Once you tap it, the process will start out like any other download, with a percentage showing you when you’ll have the package fully downloaded on your device. But then the download percentage will suddenly make way for an “installing” note, and mere seconds later, you’re ready to launch the game, even if it isn’t fully downloaded. It’s possible that Google will tweak these visuals later, though, since what we got to see here is just a proof-of-concept for developers, but that’s the gist of it.
Since it will still take a few months until Android 12 goes stable, we’ll likely have to wait quite a while until most games support this feature, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. It will be particularly useful for those of us who have a less-than-stable internet connection, and being able to hop right into proper gameplay without waiting around for the full download bridges the gap between Android and consoles. It’s also a considerate step up compared to Google Play Instant, which allowed you to only try games before downloading them.
We’ve yet to learn if the feature will be available for all phones running Android 12 or if it will be limited to a few devices only.