Game Developers Play With Google+

Angry Birds maker and others look at Google's gaming potential

Google took its next step in challenging Facebook's social dominance last week with the launch of the first games for its new social network, Google+. But will the company win the hearts of game developers?

Social games startup Kabam released two titles for the Google+ gaming introduction, Edgeworld and Dragons of Atlantis. Ted Simon, Kabam's vice president of brand marketing and communications, said via email that the team was recruited by Google to participate in the launch. It sounds like the decision wasn't too difficult, because Kabam was able to reuse "almost all the same code" from its Facebook games. The personal attention from Google+ team members didn't hurt, either.

Right now, players on Google+ aren't currently able to find their friends on Facebook, or vice versa. However, Kabam games will have similar features on Facebook and Google. Simon suggested that Google's unique social dynamic (where people create different "Circles" that reflect the distinctions between real-world social spheres) might be particularly conducive to creating communities of friends who play games together.

There's also a business incentive for developers to sign on with Google: For now, at least, Google is only taking a 5 percent cut of transaction revenue, compared to Facebook's 30 percent. Simon admitted that Google's current terms are "obviously" more attractive, but cautioned that "as always, the games themselves need to perform."

Punit Soni, a product manager for Google+, said in an email that the revenue arrangement is "an early promotion for our initial set of partners." It's a way for Google to test its bigger vision, he added.

"We believe a new kind of platform is possible—one that is collaborative in nature, and disrupts the existing ecosystem," Soni said. "That has been the core focus of our effort and that's where I see the most disruption to the ecosystem."

Overall, Simon agreed that Google's announcement is good news for the social games market.

"Free-to-play games on social networks and other digital platforms are poised to significantly disrupt the $50 billion games industry in a manner akin to the impact iTunes had on music and Netflix on the video rental business," he said. "The introduction of another major player in the social gaming arena is likely to accelerate the disruption pattern."

Meanwhile, Angry Birds, which is one of the biggest titles in mobile gaming, has also arrived on Google+—its first big move onto social networks. Angry Birds maker Rovio said this is just the beginning of the company's social plans.

"Competition and cooperation are such a natural part of gaming that we think it’s going to work really well, both on Google+ and other platforms," a spokesperson said via email. "We’re still exploring how we can add these social aspects to other versions of the game, but rest assured they’re coming!"