Massive Music Deals promotion just in time for the holidays

Back in October, we launched the Microsoft Music Deals app for Windows and Windows Phone that gives you some amazing deals on albums for you to download every Tuesday. And we’ve got a massive and VERY awesome Music Deals promotion for this week just in time for the holidays that you don’t want to miss.

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You’ll be able to download 50 boxed sets from amazing artists and bands like John Lennon, Elton John, Eagles, Grateful Dead, Radiohead, KISS, James Brown and Nirvana for under $2 each! These boxed sets usually go for anywhere between $15 and $100. I’m a huge John Lennon fan so you know which boxed set I’ll be downloading…

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We’ve also got some Holiday Freebies – more than 100 albums to choose from – for you to download for free. Albums like Green Day’s American Idiot, Imagine Dragon’s Night Visions, and Of Monsters and Men’s My Head Is An Animal. There are a lot of great albums here so be sure to check them out and download all the ones you want. Did I mention these were free?

Remember, albums you download as part of our Music Deals are all MP3s. You can download these albums, keep them, and play them on whatever device you have.

To take advantage of these Music Deals and awesome Music Deals each week – just download the Music Deal apps from the Windows Store and from the Windows Phone Store!

Sky Force 2014 Reimagined for Android TV

By Jamil Moledina, Games Strategic Partnerships Lead, Google Play

In the coming months, we’ll be seeing more media players, like the recently released Nexus Player, and TVs from partners with Android TV built-in hit the market. While there’s plenty of information available about the technical aspects of adapting your app or game to Android TV, it’s also useful to consider design changes to optimize for the living room. That way you can provide lasting engagement for existing fans as well as new players discovering your game in this new setting. Here are three things one developer did, and how you can do them too.

Infinite Dreams is an indie studio out of Poland, co-founded by hardcore game fans Tomasz Kostrzewski and Marek Wyszyński. With Sky Force 2014 TV, they brought their hit arcade style game to Android TV in a particularly clever way. The mobile-based version of Sky Force 2014 reimaged the 2004 classic by introducing stunning 3D visuals, and a free-to-download business model using in-app purchasing and competitive tournaments to increase engagement. In bringing Sky Force 2014 to TV, they found ways to factor in the play style, play sessions, and real-world social context of the living room, while paying homage to the title’s classic arcade heritage. As Wyszyński puts it, “We decided not to take any shortcuts, we wanted to make the game feel like it was designed to be played on TV.”

Orientation

For starters, Sky Force 2014 is played vertically on a smartphone or tablet, also known as portrait mode. In the game, you’re piloting a powerful fighter plane flying up the screen over a scrolling landscape, targeting waves of steampunk enemies coming down at you. You can see far enough up the screen, enabling you to plan your attacks and dodge enemies in advance.

Vertical play on the mobile version

When bringing the game to TV, the quickest approach would have been to preserve that vertical orientation of the gameplay, by pillarboxing the field of play.

With Sky Force 2014, Infinite Dreams considered their options, and decided to scale the gameplay horizontally, in landscape mode, and recompose the view and combat elements. You’re still aiming up the screen, but the world below and the enemies coming at you are filling out a much wider field of view. They also completely reworked the UI to be comfortably operated with a gamepad or simple remote. From Wyszyński’s point of view, “We really didn’t want to just add support for remote and gamepad on top of what we had because we felt it would not work very well.” This approach gives the play experience a much more immersive field of view, putting you right there in the middle of the action. More information on designing for landscape orientation can be found here.

Multiplayer

Like all mobile game developers building for the TV, Infinite Dreams had to figure out how to adapt touch input onto a controller. Sky Force 2014 TV accepts both remote control and gamepad controller input. Both are well-tuned, and fighter handling is natural and responsive, but Infinite Dreams didn’t stop there. They took the opportunity to add cooperative multiplayer functionality to take advantage of the wider field of view from a TV. In this way, they not only scaled the visuals of the game to the living room, but also factored in that it’s a living room where people play together. Given the extended lateral patterns of advancing enemies, multiplayer strategies emerge, like “divide and conquer,” or “I got your back” for players of different skill levels. More information about adding controller support to your Android game can be found here, handling controller actions here, and mapping each player’s paired controllers here.

Players battle side by side in the Android TV version

Business Model

Infinite Dreams is also experimenting with monetization and extending play session length. The TV version replaces several $1.99 in-app purchases and timers with a try-before-you-buy model which charges $4.99 after playing the first 2 levels for free. We’ve seen this single purchase model prove successful with other arcade action games like Mediocre’s Smash Hit for smartphones and tablets, in which the purchase unlocks checkpoint saves. We’re also seeing strong arcade action games like Vector Unit’s Beach Buggy Racing and Ubisoft’s Hungry Shark Evolution retain their existing in-app purchase models for Android TV. More information on setting up your games for these varied business models can be found here. We’ll be tracking and sharing these variations in business models on Android TV, including variations in premium, as the Android TV platform grows.

Reflecting on the work involved in making these changes, Wyszyński says, “From a technical point of view the process was not really so difficult – it took us about a month of work to incorporate all of the features and we are very happy with the results.” Take a moment to check out Sky Force 2014 TV on a Nexus Player and the other games in the Android TV collection on Google Play, most of which made no design changes and still play well on a TV. Consider your own starting point, take a look at the Android TV section on our developer blog, and build the version of your game that would be most satisfying to players on the couch.

musiXmatch drives user engagement through innovation

Posted by Leticia Lago, Google Play team

musiXmatch is an app that offers Android users the unique and powerful feature FloatingLyrics. FloatingLyrics pops up a floating window showing synched lyrics as users listen to tracks on their favorite player and music services. It’s achieved through a seamless integration with intents on the platform, something that’s technically possible only on Android.

As a result musiXmatch has seen “a dramatic increase in terms of engagement’, says founder Max Ciociola, “which has been two times more active users and even two times more the average time they spend in the app.”

The ability to deliver lyrics to a range of different devices — such as Chromecast, Android TV, and Android Wear — is creating opportunities for musiXmatch. It’s helping them turn their app into a smart companion for their users and getting them closer to their goal of reaching 100 million people.

In the following video, Max and Android engineer Sebastiano Gottardo talk about the unique capabilities that Android offers to musiXmatch:

To learn about achieving great user engagement and retention and reaching more users through different form factors, be sure to check out these resources:

  • Convert installs to active users — Watch this video to hear from Matteo Vallone, Partner Development Manager for Google Play, about the best practices in engaging and retaining app users using intents, identity, context, and rich notifications as well as delivering a cross-platform user experience.
  • Expanding to new form factors: Tablet, Wear & TV — Watch this panel discussion with Google experts talking about cross-platform opportunities and answering developer questions.

Chinese Developers Can Now Offer Paid Applications to Google Play Users in More Than 130 countries

By Ellie Powers, product manager for Google Play

Google Play is the largest digital store for Android users to discover and purchase their favorite mobile app and games, and the ecosystem is continuing to grow globally. Over the past year, we’ve expanded the list of countries where app developers can sign up to be merchants on Google Play, totaling 60 countries, including Lebanon, Jordan, Oman, Pakistan, Puerto Rico, Qatar and Venezuela most recently.

As part of that continued effort, we’re excited to announce merchant support in China, enabling local developers to export and sell their apps to Google Play users in more than 130 countries. Chinese developers can now offer both free and paid applications through various monetization models, including in-app purchasing and subscriptions. For revenue generated on Google Play, developers will receive payment to their Chinese bank accounts via USD wire transfers.

If you develop Android apps in China and want to start distributing your apps to a global audience through Google Play, visit play.google.com/apps/publish and register as a developer. If you want to sell apps and in-app products, you’ll need to also sign up for a Google Wallet merchant account, which is available on the “Revenue” page in the Google Play Developer Console. After you’ve uploaded your apps, you can set prices in the Developer Console and later receive reports on your revenue. You’ll receive your developer payouts via wire transfer. For more details, please visit our developer help center.

We look forward to continuing to roll out Google Play support to developers in many more countries around the world.

中国开发者可以向全球130个国家的Google Play用户提供付费应用啦

发表者:Ellie Powers, Google Play产品经理

Google Play是一个可让Android用户发现和购买他们喜爱的移动应用程序和游戏的全球最大的应用商店,这个生态系统在全球迅速成长。过去一年中,我们已经扩展到60个国家,让应用程序开发人员可以注册成为 Google Play的商家,其中新近支持的国家包括黎巴嫩、约旦、阿曼、巴基斯坦、波多黎各、卡塔尔和委内瑞拉。

作为持续改进 Google Play努力的一部分,我们很高兴地宣布在中国增加了对商家的支持,让中国的开发者能售卖应用程序到130个国家的 Google Play 用户。中国的开发者现在可以提供通过各种盈利模式的免费和付费应用,包括应用内购买和订阅。在 Google Play 产生的营收将通过美元电汇的方式支付给开发者的中国的银行账户。

如果你在中国开发Android应用程序,并希望通过 Google Play 把应用程序推广到全球,请登录play.google.com/apps/publish 并建立你的 Google Play 开发者账户。如果你想售卖付费的应用程序和应用程序内的产品,则需要再注册一个Google 电子钱包商家帐户,通过Google Play开发者控制台里的”营收”页面进行设置。上传应用程序后,你可以通过开发者控制台设定价格,之后就可以收到营收报告,你将会通过电汇的方式获得收入。

我们将继续增加更多 Google Play 商家支持的国家,敬请关注。

更多详情,请访问我们的开发者帮助中心

Redesigned Foursquare app now available for Windows Phone

Foursquare makes two apps today: Swarm, which helps you keep up and meet up with friends, and then Foursquare, which help people discover great places. They launched Swarm for Windows Phone back in August. And today, they are launching their redesigned Foursquare app for Windows Phone. If you already have Foursquare installed, you should receive an update. If you don’t – download it here for free from the Windows Phone Store.

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The redesigned Foursquare app has all the same great features as the app on other platforms but tailored specifically for Windows Phone. You personalize Foursquare with all the things you like – ranging from something specific like sushi or donuts to things more general like “scenic views” or “good for a quick meal”. Then it pulls together these tastes along with your past ratings on places you’ve visited and picks from friends and gives you custom search results just for you to help you discover new places. And as you discover new places, you can leave tips directly within the app and earn expertise. You can also follow people and influencers whose tastes you trust, and their tips show first and connect your Facebook and Twitter accounts and see spots your friends have liked nearby.

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The redesigned Foursquare also integrates with Cortana (through her “Proactive Canvas”). Just like Cortana does by proactively offering you up news, weather, and flight information – she will also proactively offer suggestions on near-by places via Foursquare. You can tap on any of these locations in Cortana and it’ll open up the Foursquare app for more details. Pretty cool.

The redesigned Foursquare is pretty awesome and I highly recommend checking it out! It is my go-to app for discovering new places to eat and sights to see.

Coding Android TV games is easy as pie

Posted by Alex Ames, Fun Propulsion Labs at Google*

We’re pleased to announce Pie Noon, a simple game created to demonstrate multi-player support on the Nexus Player, an Android TV device. Pie Noon is an open source, cross-platform game written in C++ which supports:

  • Up to 4 players using Bluetooth controllers.
  • Touch controls.
  • Google Play Games Services sign-in and leaderboards.
  • Other Android devices (you can play on your phone or tablet in single-player mode, or against human adversaries using Bluetooth controllers).

Pie Noon serves as a demonstration of how to use the SDL library in Android games as well as Google technologies like Flatbuffers, Mathfu, fplutil, and WebP.

  • Flatbuffers provides efficient serialization of the data loaded at run time for quick loading times. (Examples: schema files and loading compiled Flatbuffers)
  • Mathfu drives the rendering code, particle effects, scene layout, and more, allowing for efficient mathematical operations optimized with SIMD. (Example: particle system)
  • fplutil streamlines the build process for Android, making iteration faster and easier. Our Android build script makes use of it to easily compile and run on on Android devices.
  • WebP compresses image assets more efficiently than jpg or png file formats, allowing for smaller APK sizes.

You can download the game in the Play Store and the latest open source release from our GitHub page. We invite you to learn from the code to see how you can implement these libraries and utilities in your own Android games. Take advantage of our discussion list if you have any questions, and don’t forget to throw a few pies while you’re at it!

* Fun Propulsion Labs is a team within Google that’s dedicated to advancing gaming on Android and other platforms.

Help+Tips app for Windows Phone now has Cortana on board

Now Cortana can help you learn to do things on your Windows Phone device. Get the latest version of the Help+Tips app for Windows Phone, then ask her how to make a phone call, add contacts, even how to use Cortana (bit of an “Inception” there). Just make sure to say “How do I…” when you try it out—e.g. “How do I back up my phone?” She’ll get you to the right info in the app.

You can learn more about what’s new with Cortana here.