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Google gets serious about gaming with playable ads and Play Store updates

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Google announced an advertising initiative at the Game Developers Conference on Wednesday that aims to make it easier for developers and publishers to pull in new players. It’s called “Playables,” and it’s functionally an HTML5-based ad that features some light gameplay, so users can test drive games without buying or installing.

While useful, the concept isn’t necessarily new, as startups like mNectar have partnered with mobile gaming giants like Zynga and King Digital to accomplish a similar goal in the past. What makes Google’s proposal potentially more compelling is, well, Google. The company’s Universal App Campaigns, of which Playables are a part, distribute ads over many of Google’s properties, like YouTube, Google Search, and the Play Store itself, as well as millions of third-party apps that utilize the Google Display Network. Playables will be rolling out “in the coming months,” the company says.

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Wednesday’s announcement accompanies two other measures Google revealed earlier in the week that are designed to increase app visibility and sales. Going forward, the algorithms that determine the promotion of games on the Google Play Store will be tuned to prioritize play time, frequency, and user ratings over just downloads. The company hopes the emphasis on engagement will turn gamers on to interesting, high-quality titles they might otherwise miss due to a lack of commercial success or little word of mouth.

Another small but crucial change coming to Google’s marketplace is the visibility of sale prices. Formerly, app publishers had to simply modify the price of their products if they wanted to offer discounts. The sale couldn’t be highlighted or made known to shoppers, unless the publisher added it to the description. With a new update, discounted apps will display a standard “list price” crossed out above the purchase button, which will display the sale. Publishers will also be able to communicate the length of the promotion. According to Google, sales currently apply only to app downloads, not in-app purchases or subscriptions.

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