August 12, 2011

Google+ Plus Games Equals Facebook Threat?


If you have been eagerly awaiting yet another social networking site with the ability to soak up your valuable free time by offering a bevy of social gaming options, then Google (News - Alert)+ may have just the announcement for you.

Several weeks ago, we reported the rumors that Google+ would soon be adding a games stream. Well, with an official announcement on Thursday, that rumor has turned out to be true.

The announcement revealed that, over the course of the next few days, the current crop of 25 million users of Google+ will find the gaming stream active on their accounts. They will initially have access to games such as Angry Birds and a poker game by Zynga (News - Alert).

That four-year old game developer may soon find itself as the prettiest girl at this dance, fought over by two eligible suitors. Zynga titles, which include FarmVille, Mafia Wars and others, already account for a large percentage of the games played by a substantial chunk of the over 750 million Facebook (News - Alert) users. But lately Google has showed a great deal of interest in Zynga as well.

After the gaming company’s recent initial public stock offering, documents revealed that Google had become an investor in Zynga. This was seen by many analysts as an early sign that Google wanted to position its social network as a challenger to Facebook in the lucrative social gaming arena.

Zynga itself has been calculated as having an $11 billion market value and Facebook keeps 30 percent of the revenue generated by games on its site. With numbers like those, there is little wonder that Google sees an opportunity here. In addition to the money generated by games themselves, the traffic created by social gaming draws a lot of eyeballs to a social networking site, creating an opportunity for large advertising revenues.

In response to Google’s announcement, Facebook revealed changes to its own social gaming features. New tools will allow gamers to more easily bookmark their favorite games and monitor which games their friends are playing.

In a recent interview with Andrew Van Luchene, an expert on social gaming patents, he opined that the strong team of engineers employed by Google has an opportunity to create some truly innovative games, which can transition casual gamers to more sophisticated games, creating exciting and dynamic new revenue streams.

What does this mean for those of us who love social networking and social games? Perhaps an embarrassment of riches, as we will now have copious opportunities to waste, er, SPEND our time creating and maintaining virtual worlds which, thanks to this new competition between Internet giants, should be more dynamic and engrossing than ever. We’ll just have to wait and see.

For now, though, please excuse me, I have some pigs and birds to attend to.

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Rich Steeves is a TMCnet copy editor. He taught writing for nine years. He has also worked as an editorial assistant at Penny Publications. He has written short stories, newspaper columns, blogs and recently published his first novel. He attended The George Washington University where he received his bachelor's degree in English and a master's degree in education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell
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