Google is opening up its Google Maps Platform to everyone so developers can incorporate Maps data into their games, the company announced on Monday. Its tools let developers use Maps data to build games that let you explore a modified version of the real world, similar to Niantic’s Pokémon Go. (Niantic, once a startup within Google, has its own developer toolset for making AR games that use live camera and 3D mapping data, called the Niantic Real World Platform.)
Google first announced the tools in March 2018, but they were only available to a “limited group” of studios and only 10 games have been built with them so far, according to a Google blog post. The company says indie studios and other developers expressed interest in using the platform, so the company has been working to scale up its infrastructure to allow any developer to take advantage of them. To actually plug the Maps data into games, Google offers a software development kit for the popular Unity game engine.
Google’s tools let game developers do things like transform real-world locations or make those locations points of interest for a game. The company has also added new features to the Maps gaming tools since their 2018 launch, including a way to show higher levels of detail for areas that are closer to a player and less detail for those that are farther away. That could take up less processing power on your phone, potentially saving precious battery life.