Hello FarmVille! Is social gaming coming to Google+?

22 Jul 2011

It seems Facebook and Zynga’s cosy hold on the social gaming space is about to be challenged. Google, it seems, has confirmed that a new feature called Games Stream is on the way and this suggests the internet giant doesn’t want to miss out on the boom in micro-payments.

Slashgear today carried an interesting report claiming Google’s help pages for Google+ confirmed the imminent arrival of Games Stream, a place where results from social games on the network will appear.

The help page, which connects then to a broken link, is apparently the latest in a number of fragments of evidence suggesting Google+ and gaming will go hand in hand. Several APIs referring to “Game Friends”, “Games Activities” and “GamespostToStream” have been discovered in the code in recent weeks.

It is understood that APIs will be made available to third-party developers to connect their games to the network.

There are any number of directions this could go in. Slashgear suggests Google+ could provide a leaderboard of sorts for Android-based games.

But I think this could go further and the mesmerising success of Zynga, for example, which is about to IPO, means Google has no intention of ignoring this market.

It is understood that Google made a covert investment of up to US$200m in Zynga last year and, judging by how it nearly acquired Groupon for north of US$6bn in the deals space, having a social network and not enjoying the massive revenue gains Facebook enjoys from social gaming through ancillary channels like micropayments and advertising, would be madness. We could have a contender here.

Remember, Google’s new social network has built an audience of around 20m in just 16 or so days, far faster than Facebook or Twitter. It hasn’t even begun to try and flex its commercial muscle on this one, preferring to describe the entire endeavour as a “field trial.”

It would be interesting to see how Facebook may feel if Google indeed created another channel for developers like FarmVille creator Zynga from which to flourish, let alone a competitor in the social advertising space.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years