Updating your games for modern Android

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Posted by Tom Greenaway, Senior Partner Developer Advocate

Last year we announced that starting from August 2018 Google Play will require all new apps and games to target a recent Android API level – set to API level 26 (Android 8.0 Oreo), or higher. Additionally, this requirement will extend to updates for existing apps and games starting from November 2018.

Every new Android version introduces changes that bring significant security and performance improvements – and enhance the user experience of Android overall. Updating your games to target the latest API level ensures that your users can benefit from these improvements, while still allowing your games to run on older Android versions.

Simple next steps:

  • Install the Android 8.0 Oreo SDK (API level 26) via Android Studio by navigating to (Tools > Android > SDK Manager > Android SDK > SDK Platforms).
  • Update your game to target API level 26 and see whether your game has any incompatibilities or issues as soon as possible. Update any external dependencies as necessary. Learn more about the incremental changes between versions of Android here.
  • If you are using an advertising network, SDK or plugin which is incompatible with API level 26, reach out to your contacts and find out their timeline for supporting target API level 26. The sooner they’re aware of these changes the better.
  • If you build your game with Unity, support for target API 26 is built into Unity 5.6.5 and beyond. Simply ensure the latest target API level is selected in your Android build settings for Unity (Build Settings > Android > Player Settings). For versions of Unity 5.6.4 and prior, consult this documentation which includes a workaround for versions dating back to 4.3.
  • For games built with Unreal, check your Android platform settings has the “Target SDK Version” set to 26.
  • If you use Cocos2D-X, check the target API level in the gradle.properties file that is generated.

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Significant changes to be aware of:

  • Since API 23, we have required permissions be requested at runtime which helps streamline the app install process.
  • Since API 24, apps can no longer dynamically link against non-NDK libraries. If your app (including third-party static libraries) contains native code, you should only be using public NDK APIs.
  • If your game uses Android push notifications, the Google Play Services SDK in your game will need to be updated to version 10.2.1 or above for your game to support API level 26.
  • If your game uses opaque binary blobs (OBB), then your game must check if it can access the directory before attempting to access the OBB files themselves. We recommend explicitly requesting permission for access using the Runtime Permissions API, and gracefully handling cases wherein the permission is not granted. Additionally, add an entry in the manifest for the external storage access:
    <uses-permission android:name="android.permission.READ_EXTERNAL_STORAGE" />
    

Moving ahead

Remember, updating the target API level is just the first step – make sure your game is compatible with the behavior changes between your current target API level and API level 26. Check out further guidance on the changes in past versions of Android to help in your migration process. These policy changes are important for moving the Android ecosystem forward and keeping it healthy for our users – and yours.

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