In case you thought Google+ was going to be totally different from Facebook, well, not exactly. Google has signed a deal with several social media game developers to begin offing users of its social media service with access to some of the most popular games.
Before you start panicking that your feed will soon be inundated with game offerings, know this: Unlike Facebook, if you don’t play the games, you won’t be seeing any of their offerings in your stream.
True, Facebook has taken steps to remove some of the most annoying aspects of the games, specifically the near-constant stream of notices and “join me” updates users were receiving, from the streams of folks who are not interested. But Google+ is starting out that way. They are making a clear distinction between the gaming aspect of Google+ and the social interaction aspect.
In my opinion, this is clearly a step in the right direction.
Google Aug. 11 began introducing 16 games on its Google+ social network, allowing users to play Angry Birds, Zynga Poker and 14 other titles by clicking a new games button in the social network’s toolbar.
The lesser known detail is that Google will only take 5 percent of any payments made by Google+ users to game companies for the rest of the year. That percentage looks mighty fine compared to the 30 percent cut Facebook takes from its games developers who get paid from the Facebook Credit virtual currency system.
Some of Facebook’s 200 million game players pay to buy virtual goods, such as tractors for the popular Zynga title FarmVille.
Virtual payments have become a huge revenue source. eMarketer claims social game creators made more than $500 million in sales in 2010.
Facebook has been the leading platform where social game specialists have made money. Google’s lower fee may be attractive, but its chief dilemma now is scale.
Facebook has nearly 800 million users. At last count two weeks ago, Google+ had 25 million users. At Google+ current scaling rates, somewhere between 30 million and 40 million people now have a Google+ account.
There’s clearly a big gulf in audience between Google+ and Facebook right now.
M2 Research analyst Billy Pidgeon believes Facebook needn’t worry at this point because it has the majority of the audience with which to target its social games, as well as exclusive rights to offer Zynga’s Farmville and Mafia Wars. “Google+ has a lot to prove when it comes to gaming,” Pidgeon told eWEEK.
However, Pidgeon likes the Google+ Circles social graph construct for games, because it allows users to share game-specific information with only those users who might be interested in games. That stands in stark contrast to Facebook, where users felt pestered by News Feed updates about their friends gaming habits.
What Google also really needs to do now is promote the heck out of games. Altimeter Group analyst Jeremiah Owyang told eWEEK Google could call attention to its games by integrating then with and promoting on Google.com, Gmail, and search engine results pages.
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