Google+ to introduce social game platform
Google, whose recently launched social network Google+ has amassed 20 million users in three weeks, is planning to launch a platform for social games that would compete with the offerings on Facebook.
The search company has approached a number of developers to put their games on Google+, according to people knowledgable with Google's plans and who did not want to be identified because of confidentiality agreements. The plans, reported on Friday by AllThingsD, could come as early as August, they said.
A Google spokesperson declined to confirm, saying only that the company plans "to add a lot of features and functionality to Google+ over time."
Google+ is Google's most credible effort yet to counter the growing reach of Facebook, which is competing with the Internet search giant for eyeballs and advertising dollars. Google appears to be countering with its own efforts to grab a slice of the fast-growing market for social games, which has become an important revenue stream for Facebook.
The market for social games in the U.S., which reached $1 billion last year, is projected to grow five-fold to $5 billion by 2015, said Pietro Macchiarella, a game analyst with market research firm Parks Associates. Much of the revenue comes from games played on Facebook, the largest social network in the world with more than 750 million active users.
Facebook requires applications on its platform to pay 30% of the revenue collected from selling virtual items on the network. One way Google could compete is by offering to take a smaller portion of game publishers' revenue.
Google's success in recruiting publishers, however, will hinge on its ability to continue its momentum in adding users to Google+, Macchiarella said.
About 250 million people play social games, but only about 2% to 3% of those spend money on virtual items or power-ups for those games. That means social games require a large pool of players in order to cull a handful who will pay.
"Most publishers will be happy to extend their offerings to Google+," Macchiarelli said, "but the significance of their business on this social network will be intrinsically connected to the success of Google in migrating people from Facebook."
-- Alex Pham and Jessica Guynn