Google+ Moves Into Open Beta, Social Features in Games Put to the Test

Google’s social network is moving into open beta today, allowing any users to sign up for G+ accounts and opening up the Games platform to a whole new pool of potential players.

As more players flood the ecosystem, it’ll be interesting to see how social features on the G+ Games platform differ in virality from what we’re used to on Facebook. At present, the initial group of games available on the platform only utilize friend invites to play the game and leaderboards as a nominal form of competition. Some games, like Angry Birds, make use of a friend gate where players cannot unlock new levels until a certain number of friends have accepted invites to play the game.

Friend invites only appear to users in the Games tab — the button between Circles and the Find People search bar at the top of the G+ interface. Even then, the user has to do a bit of clicking to find invites; Game Notifications are confined to sub-menu while the default view in the Games tab shows Featured Games.

The current setup doesn’t look conducive to mass virality of games, no matter how popular the title. It could be, however, that by avoiding the game-cluttered News Feed issue Facebook experienced before dialing down virality last year, G+ Games creates a different kind of virality for games that only occurs among “destination gamers” that come to the platform just to play.

Google+ opened its Games platform to a small pool of users participating in the G+ field test in August, later adding some in-house developed casual games to the service. The company recently launched a batch APIs for developers to begin testing applications on the platform.