Google has officially announced the nine categories and their winners for this year's Google Play Awards. The recipients this year are grouped into categories that impact users' lives in certain ways, or prove what a mobile platform is capable of.
As such, simply being a great game or app within your category wasn't enough this year; participants had to have a unique app or game on show with serious impact, serious potential, or both, and all of the awardees for this year's Google Play Awards fit the category pretty nicely.
On the games side of things, we've got Madfinger's Shadowgun Legends winning Most Beautiful Game. That category is mostly what it sounds like, but it applies to more than just high-resolution textures and technical flashiness; it also covers API trickery, optimizations, art style, and more.
Eerie puzzler Tick Tock won Most Inventive for its innovative use of multiplayer-by-voice. Finally, fighting game MARVEL Strike Force rounds out the game side of the list by winning Best Breakthrough Game, exemplifying incredible growth, engagement, and user retention.
With Google's focus on users' well-being lately, it's no surprise to see a Standout Well-Being App on the list. That honor was won by Woebot, a self-care app that uses proven psychological concepts to help users to get through rough patches, manage stress, and more.
Envision AI, an AI-based app for the visually impaired that essentially acts as a user's eyes and reads for them, managed to win Best Accessibility Experience. Best Social Impact was awarded to Wisdo, an app that allows users to share experiences, advice, and more.
Moving to a more pragmatic space, Best Living Room Experience was won by Neverthink, a highly curated video service that takes the work out of relaxing and watching random videos on the net.
Easy-to-use graphic design app Canva was awarded Best Build For Billions Experience for its excellent addressing of localization, optimization, and culturalization to make the app available to as many users around the globe as possible.
The final app on the list, coming in for the Best Breakthrough App award, is virtual pen pal app SLOWLY, which eschews the instant gratification of modern messaging in favor of a slow-burning experience meant to forge meaningful connections between users.
This year's award categories did manage to have a few more conventional picks, but were mostly a less traditional setup meant to mirror Google's changing values and priorities. The award for Best Living Room Experience was one example; Google is pushing hard to make Android TV a widely beloved and commonly used platform, and apps like Neverthink will be a big help in pushing toward that goal. Going after well-being was another move that Google has mirrored in its own efforts, as was choosing a standout use case for modern AI technology for its accessibility award.
Going forward, we can likely expect future years of the Google Play Awards to follow a similar formula. New categories will be established to fit with what Google wants to see Android put to use for and how it wants to shape the platform, and it will choose apps and games that best exemplify those visions, rather than things like "best messaging app" or "best action game".