August 13, 2011

Google+ Introduces Games To Its Lineup

Google+, the social network launched by the online search giant, jumped into casual gaming on Thursday, adding a dozen games on its site, putting it in a head-to-head battle with social networking leader Facebook.

Initially, G+ is undercutting its rival by requiring less revenue from game developers, raising the stakes in the ongoing battle for social status. Facebook takes 30 percent of revenue from in-game transactions, while G+ only asks for 5 percent for the time being, the search giant said.

Facebook responded to G+'s launch by updating its own gaming platform, stating that certain games will now have larger playing areas, and games will be able to send updates to a user's social stream.

Games from top developers such as PopCap, Zynga, Rovio and BioWare are included in the G+ casual gaming experience. As soon as the roll-out is complete, a "Games" button should appear at the top of a user's G+ stream, which should grant access to the games.

"You can see the latest game updates from your circles, browse the invites you've received, and check out games that people you know have played recently," explained Vic Gundotra, Google's senior VP of engineering, on the Official Google Blog. "The Games page is also where your game accomplishments will appear, so you can comfortably share your latest high score -- your circles will only see the updates when they're interested in playing games too."

Keeping game status updates out of the circles feed is a smart move for G+, and will cut down on the clutter, like what most people now see on Facebook when their game-addicted friends continually share their game updates.

Relations between Facebook and Google have gone downhill in recent years as the two companies have grown into bitter rivals competing to control online advertising space. And Google's rising presence in the social networking market only intensifies that rivalry.

Google may also be looking to go beyond consumer social as well. The next likely move would be social networking for businesses. Currently, the only successful social network for business is LinkedIn, which saw an $8 billion IPO in May.

Google has already shown some interest in this area, saying its service would be an "amazing" presence for business.

Facebook has also moved into business social networking with its "Facebook for Business" platform. The service also teaches companies how to use the site's "powerful marketing tools" to create a Facebook Page, build relationships with members of the Facebook community, and use Facebook Ads and Sponsored Stories.

While Google has dominated the online search realm, it needs to take steps to ensure its new social network doesn't follow the same fate as its previous ventures: Google Buzz and Google Wave.

While both those sites saw initial interest, participation in the services waned and those projects were eventually scrapped.

"Google+"Ëœs ultimate success will depend on how well it converts this strong trial base into regular users," comScore's Andrew Lipsman warned, according to IBT.

While Facebook and Twitter have become online destinations in themselves, more than half of all traffic coming to G+ originates from Google or Gmail.

And Google+ doesn't enjoy as strong of an engagement as Facebook does either. Time spent on Google+ is roughly an average of 5 minutes 15 seconds. In comparison, Facebook users spend an average 55 minutes per day on that site, according to Facebook's stats.

And while Google CEO Larry Page told investors that G+ has already gotten 10 million registered users, HitWise data firm stated that only 10 percent of those registered visit the site regularly.

With strong integration to Google's ecosystem of products and services and plenty of hype, Google+ will have little problems reaching more people. But the question remains: Will Google be able to convert passers-by into dedicated members?

With the addition of casual games Google may answer that question.

The early roster for G+ includes titles such as Dragon Age Legends, Bejeweled Blitz, City of Wonder, Zombie Lane and Monster World.


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