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2017 Google Play Award winners excel in design, functionality, delightfulness

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Christian de Looper/Digital Trends
Last year, Google hosted its inaugural Google Play Awards at Google I/O, its annual developer conference in Mountain View, California, during which it crowned the year’s best Play Store games and apps. And this year, it announced the winners of the second annual competition at an gala on Thursday evening.

The competition was fierce. The contenders were broken out over 12 categories, and had to adhere to a set of criteria for consideration. All had to have high user ratings, pass Google’s bars for technical performance, and have received an update or been launched since April of last year.

Memrise took home the Best App category, thanks to a “beautiful design,” “intuitive [interface]” and “high user appeal.” The judging panel was especially impressed by its creativity — users are tasked with “duping enemy agents” in a “distant Universe” by demonstrating mastery of languages including French, Spanish, German, English, Chinese, Japanese, and more.

The Best Game award went to Transformers: Forged to Fight by Kabam, which won Google’s judges over with “strong mechanics,” “stellar graphics,” “strong engagement,” and “retention tactics.”

In the Standout Indie category, Mushroom 11 took the crown for “artistic design,” “gameplay mechanics,” and “overall polish.” A combination of intuitive touch controls, challenging puzzles, eerily beautiful visuals, and ethereal electronica music by The Future Sound of London sealed the deal.

The Standout Startup category went to Hooked by Telepathic, which “offers a unique experience” while “achieving strong organic install growth.” The Google team was impressed by the app’s innovative method of storytelling — spooky thrillers unfold message by message over a series of texts.

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Runtastic got the Best Android Wear Experience award — Google praised its “great design,” ability to “delight,” and “functionality.” The judging panel lavished special praise on its robust activity tracking, audio coach, leaderboard features, built-in music player, and integration with Google’s Fit platform.

The Best VR Experience award went to Virtual Virtual Reality by Tender Claws, which Google’s judges called “highly immersive.” The inventive title, which runs on Google’s Daydream VR platform, tasks players with tasks like jumping between realities and “vacuuming up” worlds.

WOORLD by Funomena won the Best AR Experience. Its “creative” and “imaginative” technology, pioneered with the help of Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahashi, was one of the most effective uses of Googles’s depth-sensing, spatial-tracking Tango technology in Google Play, the judging panel said.

Red Bull TV won the best TV Experience for its “large-screen format” and “intuitive experience.” Google noted that the it adhered closely to Android’s style guideline, and made especially good use of Android TV’s built-in search functions.

The competition’s other winners included ShareTheMeal by the United Nations, which won Best Social Impact for affecting “meaningful” social change for “people around the world”; IFTTT, which took home the Best Accessibility Experience award for “[serving] people with disabilities” and “special needs”; Animal Jam by WildWorks, which won Best App for Kids for encouraging “creativity,” “exploration,” and “education”; and Blizzard’s Hearthstone trading card game, which won the Best Multiplayer Award.

The Google Play store is a big deal — it’s the primary way the more than 2 billion Android users around the world find and update apps and games. It’s estimated to generate more than $3.3 billion in revenue annually, and Google said that over the past year alone, more than 85 billion apps and gamest were downloaded on Google Play.

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