Google is removing some features from Play Games Services next year.
Specifically multiplayer APIs, according to the company's brief announcement on the Play Console Help page.
Google Play Games will end support for the APIs on March 31
For now, the support for multiplayer APIs in Play Games Services will be available until March 31 of 2020.
This is the actual shutdown date, so games that are utilizing multiplayer APIs can continue to do so until this time. That being said, Google is urging developers to move to a new tool for the same features. Well before the shutdown date if possible.
The APIs that will be leaving Play Games Services in March of next year are the real-time and turn-based multiplayer APIs. These are used in games like Clash of Clans, as well as games like PUBG MOBILE.
It's important to note that other APIs for games, such as leaderboards, achievements, and cloud saves are not going to be discontinuing. These will still be a part of the Play Games Services tool.
There are several other tools that can be used as a replacement
Play Games Services may have made things easy for the simple fact that it kept things lumped together. There are other tools that can be used to replace it for the multiplayer APIs though.
One such tool is Firebase, which Google owns, and is suggesting as one possible solution for developers looking to keep multiplayer integration.
Another possible option is Google Cloud Open Match. Each will have its benefits. Open Match isn't free but it is open source. Firebase on the other hand has a free option for developers, though it will offer less features. Still, the free tier is an option and it may be enough for some developers.
The APIs can't be disabled in Play Games Services, or added to new games
Obviously, it won't be possible to enable these APIs for new games. And even if it was, it wouldn't make any sense as developers would need to switch to a new tool in just under six months. Which would probably interrupt multiplayer features for users.
Any developers looking to add multiplayer integration may as well start fresh with something like Firebase, Open Match, or another similar option.
For developers that have had multiplayer integration enabled for quite some time, it's not possible to turn disable the APIs. This is according to Google. This also means that devs with these integrations in their games should probably continue using them for the time being, while initiating the changes to a new tool in parallel.