Google+ Gets Games to Keep Users Close at Hand
Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has added games to Google+, a move that should increase the amount of time users spend on the social network as it seeks to pry users from Facebook.
Google+ launched to limited field testing June 28, quickly gaining more than 25 million users in a month's time, according to comScore. The network leverages a Circles construct of manual friending, and offers Hangouts for impromptu and planned video chat sessions.
The company has been refining the product for the last six weeks since its launch and the latest tweak is a big one; the search engine is adding a games button to the top of Google+ users' streams.
The uptick on gaming in Facebook has made it clear that online games in social networks are a huge draw for social network users. Social game developers spice up the action by letting users purchase virtual goods to boost their game status or add additional levels.
Google+ users will be able to click it to play any of the 16 games listed there, including popular titles such as Angry Birds from Rovio Mobile, Bejeweled Blitz from PopCap and Zynga Poker.
"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," Vic Gundotra, senior vice president of engineering for Google, said in a blog post.
"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."
This control over who sees what is consistent with the Google+ Circles construct, which is designed to give users more control over their privacy.
The inclusion of Zynga Poker lends to the intrigue of how Google is positioning games versus rival Facebook. Zynga has been the flagship game developer for Facebook since its Farmville and Mafia Wars titles burst onto the scene a few years ago.
Zynga is going public and appears to be content with playing the middle. Google invested more than $100 million in the gaming network when it began building Google+ in earnest last summer.
The Google+ games rollout will be gradual, so users may not see the games button right away. Developers interested in building games for Google+ should see Google's developers blog here.
Facebook wasted little time in responding to Google's games play, upgrading its own games experience by adding a new game ticker, bigger screen and the ability to bookmark favorite games.