Developing with the Google Play Games on PC Developer Emulator

The Google Play Games on PC Developer Emulator is a developer-focused emulator for Google Play Games on PC. Unlike the player experience, you can install and debug your own packages. You also can simulate various player configurations such as the aspect ratio, mouse emulation, and graphics backend to help you ensure that your game performs as expected across a variety of PC configurations.

Starting the Emulator

Once installed, you will have a "Google Play Games Developer Emulator" start menu element and a desktop shortcut to launch the emulator. The emulator will remain resident in your system tray when you close the window.

Sign in

You are asked to sign into your Google account the first time you run the emulator. Use the same login credentials you plan to use for development.

You can sign out by right clicking on the system tray icon, selecting Developer Options, then clicking Force sign out. When you do so, the emulator immediately restarts and asks you to sign in again.

After launching, you will see a typical Android home screen. Left mouse clicks are directly translated into finger taps as in mouse emulation mode. Games sideloaded for development appear in the application list, which you can get to by clicking and dragging up on the desktop (emulating an upwards swipe on a phone or tablet).

In addition to mouse translation, the Google Play Games on PC Developer Emulator provides keyboard shortcuts to improve navigation:

  • ctrl + h: press the home button
  • ctrl + b: press the back button
  • F11 or alt + enter: toggle between fullscreen and windowed mode
  • shift + tab: open the Google Play Games on PC overlay, including the current key mappings for the Input SDK

Installing a game

The Google Play Games on PC Developer Emulator uses the Android Debug Bridge (adb) to install packages.

adb compatibility

Current versions of adb are compatible with the Google Play Games on PC Developer Emulator. Additionally a compatible version is installed at C:\Program Files\Google\Play Games Developer Emulator\current\emulator when you install the emulator.

To follow these instructions, adb should be available in your $PATH. You can verify that adb is configured correctly with the adb devices command

adb devices
List of devices attached
localhost:6520  device

Install the game

  • Launch Google Play Games for PC Emulator
  • Type adb devices in your command prompt. You should see:

    adb devices
    List of devices attached
    localhost:6520 device
  • Troubleshooting:

    • If you get an error, verify that you've followed the instructions in Adb compatibility.
    • If you don't see a device, attempt to reconnect over port 6520:
    adb connect localhost:6520
  • Type adb install path\to\your\game.apk to install your game. If you've generated an Android App Bundle (aab), see the instructions for bundletool and use bundletool install-apks instead.

  • Run your game by either:

    • Type adb shell monkey -p 1 to run your game, replacing with your game's package name.
    • In the Google Play Games on PC Developer Emulator, click the icon to run your game. Just like on an Android phone, you have to "swipe up" on the home screen to see the list of installed games.

Debugging a game

Use the Android Debug Bridge (adb) to debug as you do for any other game. The emulator appears as a device connected via localhost:6520.

adb logcat functions as expected, as do tools that help prettify or filter logcat output -- including Android Studio.

In addition to adb, logs can be accessed in your %LOCALAPPDATA%\Google\Play Games Developer Emulator\Logs directory. Most useful here is AndroidSerial.log which represents everything adb logcat would echo from the moment the emulator starts.

Developer settings

The Google Play Games on PC Developer Emulator focuses on developer efficiency rather than end user experience. This means that you have unobstructed access to the Android system, including using the standard Android launcher instead of the Google Play Games on PC experience, and controls over features that are otherwise automatically enabled and disabled for players.

Testing mouse input

During development, the Google Play Games on PC Developer Emulator defaults to touch emulation rather than giving you direct mouse input. You can enable direct mouse input by right clicking the system tray icon, selecting Developer Options, and then PC mode (KiwiMouse).

Google Play Games on PC has two mouse modes: an emulated mode that translates mouse clicks into single taps and a passthrough "PC mode" that lets games handle mouse actions natively and perform pointer capture. For details on mouse input in Google Play Games on PC see Setup mouse input.

In the player client, emulation is disabled by adding this to your manifest:

<manifest ...>
      android:required="false" />

This feature flag has no effect in the development environment.

Testing aspect ratios

The developer emulator launches in a 16:9 aspect ratio – unlike the player client which derives its aspect ratio from the primary display. By right clicking on the system tray icon, selecting Developer Options, and then any option in the Display Ratio section, you can test how the game looks on different player's screens.

The preferred method to configure your aspect ratio is to use android:minAspectRatio and android:maxAspectRatio.

For example, a portrait game would have a 9/16 or 0.5625 aspect ratio so you may want to set a max aspect ratio of 1 to prevent your game from going wider than square:

<activity android:maxAspectRatio="1">

Similarly, a landscape game would be 16/9 or roughly 1.778, so you may want to set a min aspect ratio of 1 to prevent it from going skinnier than square:

<activity android:minAspectRatio="1">

What to test

If your game only supports portrait modes in the manifest, you can select 9:16 (Portrait) in the drop-down to see how it looks on players' PCs. Otherwise verify that your game works at the widest and narrowest landscape ratios you support in your manifest, remembering that 16:9 (Default) (or 9:16 (Portrait) if your game is portrait only) is required for full certification.

Testing rendering backends

Google Play Games on PC uses ANGLE as compatibility layer to ensure that OpenGL ES calls are handled correctly by the host PC using either a DirectX or Vulkan backend. The emulator also supports Vulkan directly, although not on DirectX. This layer also converts mobile only compressed texture formats to PC compatible ones. By right clicking on the system tray icon and selecting Graphics Stack Override, you may either set it to your system's default or force vulkan on or off for compatibility testing.

What to test

There are minor variations in supported texture formats and the steps needed to emulate various mobile features on desktop. When profiling and optimizing your game, it may be worth checking each backend.

Profiling your PC game

Since the emulator uses the same technology as the consumer client, it's a suitable environment for performance profiling.

Perfetto is a tool for analyzing performance on Android. You can gather and view a Perfetto trace using the following steps:

  1. In a PowerShell prompt, start a trace using adb

    adb shell perfetto --time 10s gfx wm sched --out /data/misc/perfetto-traces/example.trace
    1. The --time flag specifies the duration of the trace to gather. In this example, the trace is 10 seconds.
    2. The arguments after the --time flag indicate which events are to be traced. In this example gfx indicates graphics, wm window management, and sched process scheduling information. These are common flags for profiling games and a full reference is available.
    3. The --out flag specifies the output file, which is pulled out of the emulator onto the host machine in the next step.
  2. Pull the trace from your host

    adb pull /data/misc/perfetto-traces/example.trace $HOME/Downloads/example.trace
  3. Open the trace in the Perfetto UI

    1. Open
    2. Select Open trace file from the upper left corner under Navigation.
    3. Open the example.trace file you downloaded in the previous step to your Downloads/ directory.
  4. Inspect the trace in the Perfetto UI. Some tips:

    1. Each process has its own row, which can be expanded to show all the threads in that process. If you're profiling a game, it's process is likely the first row.
    2. You can zoom in and out by holding Control and using the scroll wheel.
    3. When using the sched event, there is a row for each thread showing when that thread's state is running, runnable, sleeping, or blocked.
    4. When enabling an event like gfx, you are able to see the various graphics calls made by various threads. You can select individual "slices" to see how long they took, or you can drag along a row causing a "slices" section to open at the bottom and show you how long all the slices took in your selected time window.

Graphics Profiling

It is possible to perform some graphics profiling with RenderDoc.

  1. Set the environment variable ANDROID_EMU_RENDERDOC to a non-empty string (such as "1").
  2. Set the environment variable TMP to %USERPROFILE%\AppData\LocalLow. This tells Renderdoc to place its log files somewhere reachable within the emulator sandbox.

  3. If you are using the Vulkan backend. Select Graphics Settings > Vulkan Instance Implicit Layers and ensure that VKLAYER_RENDERDOC_Capture is checked.

  4. Launch Google Play Games on PC Developer Emulator. A RenderDoc overlay is drawn at the top as long as support is enabled.

  5. Launch RenderDoc anytime before or after Google Play Games on PC Developer Emulator launches.

  6. Click File > Attach to Running Instance and select crosvm.

Specify Environment Variables

In order for Renderdoc to work, you have to add or change environment variables in Windows. You can change environment variables using the UI, PowerShell, or cmd.exe.

Use the UI
  • Press Win+R to open the run dialog.
  • Type sysdm.cpl to open the System Properties window.
  • Select the Advanced tab if it isn't already active.
  • Click the Environment Variables button.

From here you can either click the New button to create a new environment variable or select a variable and click the Edit button to edit it.

Use PowerShell

In a PowerShell window, type:


Replace VARIABLE_NAME and VALUE with the values you wish to set. For example, to set ANDROID_EMU_RENDERDOC to "1" type:

Use cmd.exe

In a cmd.exe window, type:


Replace VARIABLE_NAME and VALUE with the values you wish to set. For example, to set ANDROID_EMU_RENDERDOC to "1" type:


Tips for Android 11 (API level 30) or higher

Google Play Games on PC is updated with the latest Android releases. Here are some tips for working with the latest version of Android.

Keep tools up to date

Android Studio installs a version of adb that is compatible with the developer emulator; however, some game engines include an older version of adb. In that case, after you install the developer emulator, you can find a compatible version of adb at C:\Program Files\Google\Play Games Developer Emulator\current\emulator.

If you launch one version of adb, it terminates the other. This means that if your game engine automatically launches its own adb instance, you may have to re-launch and reconnect the version of adb that comes with the developer emulator whenever you deploy.

If you are using an Android App bundle, you must install the latest version of Bundletool from the GitHub repository.

Scoped Storage

Android 11 (API level 30) or higher includes scoped storage, which provides better protection to app and user data on external storage. Besides making your game compatible with scoped storage requirements, you need to perform extra steps to load APK Expansion Files (obb) or asset data into the Google Play Games on PC Developer Emulator. Follow these steps if you run into issues accessing those files from your game:

  1. Create a directory that your app can read.
  2. Push your expansion files to the emulator.
adb shell mkdir /sdcard/Android/obb/
adb push /sdcard/Android/obb/

Package Visibility

Because of the new package visibility rules, apps that target Android 11 (API level 30) or higher are blocked from querying for information about the other apps that are installed on a device. This means that your game is blocked from accessing Play Services when sideloaded via adb instead of being installed via the Play Store. To test your IAP with a sideloaded game, you must add a query to the package "" in your AndroidManifest.xml file as follows:

        <package android:name="" />

Installing your game in the consumer client

You cannot install a game on the consumer client until it has been listed in the Play Games Services catalog. After your game has a single release, you can create an internal test track validate future updates before release.

The player client doesn't support the developer focused features of the Google Play Games on PC Developer Emulator. This is best used to QA the game before release to test the end to end player experience after the initial release.