What Google Play Points’ new update tell us about the future of app stores

Google Play’s new Play Points rewards systems includes early access to the biggest games

What Google Play Points’ new update tell us about the future of app stores
  • Google Play's new update lets you play Squad Busters a week early
  • This offer also comes alongside a new update to let you earn play points in a new game
  • Here's our take on what this means, and what changes like this may do for Google Play

Over the past few days, one of the big stories that stuck out for us has been A) Squad Busters and B) Google’s latest AI woes. If only there was a story that brought those two together. Oh, wait, there is!

We’re curious to dig into the nature of Google Play’s new Play Points system, what it offers, how this relates to Squad Busters and its stratospheric expectations, and whether or not this success and ambition will hold out.

Let’s play

Today’s opinion piece is going to function as a bit of a roundup. After all, the announcement that Squad Busters would be available early via Google Play was surprising, if not shocking. And the two are closely related, at least in what we’re going to discuss today.

Of course, early access on mobile isn’t unusual, but the fact that such a major (and relatively recently announced) release was coming to Google Play Pass with its new iteration indicated that they must have been moving fast.

But okay, slow down, let’s go over the changes.

What’s changing at Google?

First of all, Google announced a new mini-game playable by Google Play Points members. Diamond, Platinum and Gold members can play for rewards including both cool prizes (the usual schtick of pay-to-earn stuff) and Play Points. You may remember Play Points being introduced a few years ago as a welcome, if relatively barebones, rewards system.

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But it seems that it's all changed with Play Points, not just with the Diamond Valley minigame, but the aforementioned members can also get early access to the newest games. Including, drumroll, Squad Busters! The upcoming MOBA RTS thingumybob from Supercell, and their first global launch in five years.

The last one is what really got us curious. It’s not often you see early access being tied to anything but stuff like Kickstarter, and usually only for really big game companies. Google also already has services like Play Pass, which functions similarly to Apple Arcade. So what's the deal with bringing in early access, and why now?

Why now?

But why now of all times? After all, mobile gaming is still top of the heap, and wasn’t Google more concerned with AI and other junk? Well, it all has to do with yes, again, the DMA changes affecting America and Europe. After all, if you follow Tim Sweeney, or know of him, you'll know the boss of Epic is an easy way to keep up to date on what's befalling Apple and Google.

Tim Sweeney commenting again on Apple and Google's monopoly.

In terms of app store monopolies, Google Play is one of those services, or storefronts, that has benefitted massively from being the default. But with changes to storefronts and the widespread introduction of third-party stores that could be set to change.

Now, anyone can open a store, and any competitors can begin muscling in. For many players Play Points have not been particularly important, but the option to play for more points and access new games early makes it ten times more tempting.

So I think the main rationale behind Google Play introducing these new benefits is to keep people in their store. As we see it, the iOS App Store sells the benefits of comfort, safety and familiarity. But Google can afford to offer huge perks.

Who’s coming hunting?

The fact is that third-party storefronts aren’t the main threat, whatsoever. Unfortunately, the rule changes that many tout as democratising the storefront scene on mobile is just as likely to increase the overarching presence of large corporations.

Naturally, competition is going to be fierce. Epic Games for mobile is on the way and no doubt Tim Sweeney will throw money at players and give out free games. Microsoft is touting its new Xbox store as a potential game-changer (pun intended) and no doubt Samsung and Huawei have stuff up their sleeves too.

So, are we about to see mobile open up to be more about smaller stores? Not likely, but we are seeing something that’s akin to democratising, and that’s exactly why we think Google is so eager to get ahead of the competition.

Is Supercell heaping too much expectation on Squad Busters?

But that comes to my other point, which is a bit more vague. We already did an entire opinion piece discussing why we thought that Squad Busters’ global launch was so massive for Supercell. This is the company, after all, that has axed more games than it has launched in the past half a decade.

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But to go from that to an instant global launch, and an early access deal with Google indicates that Supercell is really piling on the expectations. So this could either be a sign of major confidence, or something that might backfire.

We don’t expect that Squad Busters won’t be successful. By all metrics, it looks to be a pretty good game, and all that good feedback has to be coming from somewhere. But we hear the ‘didn’t live up to expectations’ line a lot on console and PC, and the last thing players likely want is for it to hit mobile.

Is this gonna’ go the way of Stadia?

And then there’s the elephant in the room. Google themselves. We’ve heard it on the grapevine that Google has a nasty habit of launching stuff before dropping support. Remember Google One? What about Stadia? Yes, it seems that big launches are their bread and butter but that tends to falter later on.

So we’re partially a bit worried that, despite this overall being a good thing (that storefronts like Google Play now actually have to incentivise you to stay with them) it won’t last. It’s like Netflix Games, nothing good ever seems to last forever.

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Stadia was arguably a game-changer. Nowadays everyone has some sort of cloud gaming service, whether that be Xbox Game Pass or PlayStation Now. But the one that arguably started the trend was quickly dropped to the side, after only a short while.

How sustainable is this?

And here’s the kicker. There’s not always going to be a Squad Busters-level game out there. A lot of mobile games belong to very particular genres, and very few can generate a huge amount of hype before launch. Maybe the next MiHoYo game, or ports of already popular titles, but we doubt anyone apart from hardcore ARPG fans would be excited about the next gacha game coming to Google Play’s early access.

Which is the overall conclusion, that it feels like a lot of eggs are being put in a precariously small basket. Supercell is right to have confidence in their game, but this all smacks of Google making a sudden decision, and we’re not sure if they can hold out the long-term support this kind of rewards system needs.


Okay, so what’s the point of all this? Well, it’s mainly to get people thinking about what’s going on behind the scenes. It’s genuinely surprising that out of all the games to bring to early access on Google Play first it’s Squad Busters, which certainly smacks of a quick decision.

Ultimately, this isn't anything that's going to affect us as players directly. Although like with Netflix Games, we know that whenever something seems a bit too good to be true, it probably isn't.

Iwan Morris
Iwan Morris
Iwan is a Cardiff-based freelance writer, who joined the Pocket Gamer Biz site fresh-faced from University before moving to the Pocketgamer.com editorial team in November of 2023.