With Android TV, phones and tablets become game controllers for big-screen play

New Google Play update announced at GDC makes it easy to connect and compete

For many mobile gamers, the idea of shelling out for a dedicated gamepad seems ludicrous, no matter how decent they are. But with Android TV, that’ll soon seem less necessary thanks to an update to Google Play Services.

Announced at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco today - yes, there’s another big show happening right now - Google’s new Nearby Connections API allows smartphones and tablets to connect with an Android TV set or box to act as touch controllers for games on the big screen.

To demo the addition, Google enlisted developer Vector Unit to outfit its free-to-play kart racer Big Buggy Racing with four-player split-screen support via Android TV. Players can use their phones and tablets to control their respective drivers while concentrating on the television.

In practice, it all looks rather similar to playing supported iPhone and iPad games with the Apple TV, so it’s great to see Android players get that kind of option. And with luck, some of the iOS games already designed for AirPlay can be easily adapted to work with Android TV via the Play Store.

Google says that Big Buggy Racing’s split-screen action will be available this summer, although it’s unclear whether the feature will be available via other games before then.

[Source: Google via Engadget]