UX best practices for games on Google Play Instant

Games on Google Play Instant are a great way to remove friction for your players and increase your reach. This guide expands upon the UX best practices for apps on Google Play Instant and presents best practices specific to games.

Identify your target user experience

When designing your gaming experience using Google Play Instant, consider how you'd like players to interact with it.

You can make your entire game available without installation, which is a great way for players to enjoy your game with the least amount of friction. If you aren't able to make the entire game available, you can also create one of the types of experiences described in this section.

Be deliberate when building out your instant experience. In doing so, you'll increase your reach by providing value to your gamers.

Preregistration

You can deploy a Google Play Instant experience as part of a preregistration campaign for an upcoming release. You can use this experience to help generate signups, perform A/B testing of features, and share teaser content to prospective players.

Players launch this experience from the Play Store details page, which is also where they preregister for the game.

Introductory gameplay

The Google Play Instant experience is built around the first few levels of the game, or the game's tutorial, with minimal changes to the player's experience. When players install the game from the instant experience, you can transfer their current progression.

Core gameplay

The Google Play Instant experience provides a preview of what players see after they complete the tutorial and introductory levels. This pattern is particularly effective when combined with the best practice of saving players' progress after they install the full game.

New gameplay types or levels

Games can experience player abandonment as they mature. These players may have either finished the current game, exhausted all the current features, or dropped off for a variety of other reasons. Google Play Instant is a great way to re-engage these players by showing them what more they can experience with your game. These new experiences might include new levels or changed game mechanics.

Minigame

The Google Play Instant experience complements the installed version of your game. This experience often contains different gameplay elements and might be more simplistic.

Cross-promotion and ads

Several types of campaigns—including ad campaigns and cross-promotional ad campaigns—can launch players directly into the Google Play Instant experience instead of the static Google Play Store details page.

These experiences include the following:

  • Ad campaigns.
  • Cross-promotional ad campaigns: Advertising one of your games within one of your other games.
  • Re-engagement ad campaigns: Ads that target churned players of your game.

Polish the end-to-end experience

This section provides some suggestions for optimizing the end-to-end experience for players who interact with your game on Google Play Instant. You should make sure that your instant experience starts quickly from a variety of entry points, and you should encourage players to graduate out of the experience by installing a full version of your game.

Give players several entry points

Players may find your game using any of the following methods:

  • An ad.
  • A link on a website.
  • A message from a friend.
  • The Google Play Games app.
  • The Try Now button in the Play Store.
  • A QR code.

Provide at least a few of these methods for bringing players into your game.

The screenshots in Figure 1 show examples of these game discovery methods:

Figure 1. Several possible ways players might find your game (left to right, from top: ad campaign, Hangouts message, Google Play Games app, Play Store)

Start the experience quickly

Games on Google Play Instant use an immersive, arcade-like animation as a loading screen to keep players engaged while the game loads.

If you must display an additional loading screen in the game, try to show it for as short a time period as possible.

Keep the back button enabled

Figure 2. Back button warning dialog (Bubble Witch 3 Saga)

Because it's possible to run games on Google Play Instant by simply clicking a link, some players might run them accidentally. These players need a way to exit the game.

Don't disable the Android back button at the bottom of the screen. Instead, show a warning when it's pressed to alert players they're about to exit the game. It's a good practice to not disrupt established navigational patterns.

Provide an installation prompt

You should provide a way for players to install the game should they decide they want to continue to play locally. Typically, you use an Install button. You can show this button in a variety of locations:

  • On screen permanently.
  • Between levels.
  • As part of the main menu.

The screenshots in Figure 3 present examples of possible Install button locations. The screenshot in Figure 4 demonstrates the in-app installation experience that occurs after players tap a given Install button.

Figure 3. Several possible ways of inviting players to install a game (Clash Royale, left; Bubble Witch 3 Saga, right)
Figure 4. Inline app installation experience (Panda Pop)

Preserve user state after installation

Ensure players' progress and achievements are saved and available after installation. They should be able to continue playing where they left off when they decided to install.

Make your game viral

Some of the best players are acquired organically through recommendations from existing players. Google Play Instant can bridge the installation gap between one friend recommending a game and another friend trying it out for the first time.

Invitations

In games that support multiplayer gameplay, existing players expect to be able to send a link to their friends. Using the link, these friends can then join the player's team or engage in a contest.

Several examples of invitations include the following:

  • Multiplayer invite: A player clicks a social invite link from their friend. Instead of waiting for the game to install, the player is launched into a Google Play Instant experience and can start playing with their friend immediately. After the round finishes, the friend sees a prompt to install the game.
  • Team or clan invite: A player shares an invite to join their team or clan with a friend. The friend taps on the invite, and a Google Play Instant experience starts that is specialized for the invite. After accepting the invite, the friend is prompted to install the game.
Figure 5. Trophy-based sharing screen (Bubble Witch 3 Saga)

Gameplay sharing

Existing players might also want to send a link to their friends to showcase their in-game achievements. Common types of achievements include the following:

  • Share game replay: A player shares a big victory with their friends through a link. The friend taps on the link and launches the Google Play Instant experience, which replays the victory and then prompts them to install the game.
  • Trophy: A player acquires a new in-game asset or trophy and wants to show it off to their friend, which they can do using a screen similar to the one in Figure 5. When the friend taps on a link to the trophy, a Google Play Instant experience launches, allowing them to explore the game reward in detail. When the friend views the reward, they're prompted to install the game.