Google+ games = Facebook challenger?

Google+ games = Facebook challenger?
Michael French

By Michael French

August 11th 2011 at 9:38PM

Web giant widens social circles platform with Zynga, EA, Rovio and PopCap amongst partners

Google has put paid to weeks of speculation by adding a games element to its Google+ social network.

And it's done it with some heavyweight developer partners in Zynga, Rovio, PopCap, EA, Wooga, Playdom, Digital Chocolate, Funzio, Kabam, and GameHouse.

That means well known online games such as Dragon Age Legends, Bejewelled and Zynga Poker are live on Google+ as part of a launch line-up of 16 titles.

LabPixies, the studio Google bought just over a year ago, contributes its Flood It game to the platform as part of that line-up.

All but one of the games - the new social version of Angry Birds - are ports of Facebook games.

"With the Google+ project, we want to bring the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to the web," the firm said in a blog post. It launched Google+ in late June, and the service takes a markedly different approach to the likes of Facebook or Twitter by allowing users to construct specific social circles and lists of friends and acquaintances so they can control who sees what in their 'feed' and the content they share.

"But sharing is about more than just conversations. The experiences we have together are just as important to our relationships. We want to make playing games online just as fun, and just as meaningful, as playing in real life."

Games on Google+ features traditional elements like game invites, 'accomplishments'/achievements, but Google says a key element is in fact the ability to ignore them too, adding privacy elements that can't be found on some Facebook experiences.

The move comes after much speculation and discussion that Games would be a part of Google+; eagle-eyed coders had found games related code in the G+ pages, and the firm has been hiring games-knowledgable engineers on and off over the years.

Google is no stranger to games, however, having previously bought in-game ad firms, added a app store including games to its web browser Chrome, pushed hard to make games a relevant part of its Android mobile OS, and even working with the likes of Playfish and PopCap to host games directly on customisable iGoogle pages.

But this move is still significant - by adding Games to Google+, the web firm is finally offering a platform that could challenge the dominant Facebook.

"A little healthy competition never hurt anyone either," jokes the Google blog post on the role games have in social elements - but there's a second meaning there no doubt not lost on Google.

But the launch is a limited start - only some Google+ users can see the Games in their feed as the firm rolls out the functionality, and for now development is closed and limited to key partners. Although on the Google blog the firm says that it is committed to opening the platform up to more developers and making app publishing a key part of the platform very soon, it won't be a free for all.

David Glaser, Google's Engineering Director, wrote on the Google Developer blog: "Because we want to provide both a great user experience and a great developer experience, we’re focusing on quality before quantity. We will continue to add new partners and new features in small steps, starting with today’s release of the games APIs to a small number of developers. We’re keeping a close eye on feedback, and are eager to open up more access as soon as it’s ready."