Android games downloads are about to get smaller, less convoluted

Although Android apps are naturally optimized for running on mobile devices with more constrained resources than even laptops, their packages traditionally weren't. Because Android apps often have to account for the myriad of configurations and Android phone hardware, those packages or APKs used to hold and download all of those different configurations and assets, regardless of your specific hardware. It was for that reason that Google introduced its Android App Bundle format and it is now extending that to Android's biggest space and bandwidth consumers: game assets.

First announced around two years ago, the Android App Bundle packaging format optimized the delivery of apps by downloading only the specific parts and assets that users' phones will need and disregarding others. Those benefits, however, are lost on games that mostly need the same assets across all devices. The problem games have is that their asset packs are huge, sometimes larger than 1GB and they often have to be delivered separately from the game itself, increasing users' waiting time.

Google seems to be on a gaming spree these days and is adding what it has dubbed as the Play Asset Delivery or PAD to the App Bundle format. This would allow game developers to offload most of the burden of optimizing asset downloads to the Google Play Store just as regular apps have with the App Bundle. More importantly, it promises to give users a more seamless experience when downloading even large games.

For one, they no longer have to be surprised when they download a small game only to open that game and discover they have to download 2GB worth of assets. All of that, including future updates, will be part of the app download itself and developers can choose whether the assets can be downloaded even while the user is playing. PAD also offers compression of some assets to download the best ones for a given device.

Google Play Asset Delivery supports popular game engines like Unreal and Unity 3D but even has provisions for custom ones. Of course, this won't happen magically and developers will have to do some work to transition over to that system. This also ties those games more deeply into the Google Play ecosystem, which will undoubtedly be presented as a selling point of Google's official Android app store.