Google has the best public mapping data, but game developers haven’t been able to get in there and play with it. Even Niantic, a former Google division, couldn’t use Maps data for its smash hit Pokémon Go. This will change soon with the introduction of new Google Maps APIs for games. Developers will be able to build virtual worlds on top of real, live data from Google Maps, and there are already three Maps-enabled games on the way.
The real-time Maps data forms the backbone of Google’s new developer tools. That includes access to over 100 million 3D buildings, roads, and landmarks from more than 200 countries. There will also be an SDK for the Unity game engine, allowing designers to re-skin the real world and incorporate Google Maps into games. The real world objects become GameObjects in the Unity engine, so two games might look entirely different even though they’re using the same starting data.
Google has partnered with three game developers to demonstrate the power of the Maps: Jurassic World Alive, The Walking Dead: Our World, and Ghostbusters World. These games were announced previously, but the integration with Maps is a new wrinkle. Maybe if Pokémon Go had access to this API it wouldn’t have been such a mess at launch.
Google will be at GDC 2018 showing off the new Maps gaming tools, but you can get an idea of what’s coming from these demo videos. Devs interested in using the new Maps API will need to contact Google to get a pricing quote.