Could online gaming power Google's social networking platform?

Posted by Aharon Etengoff

Google is reportedly building a social networking service that could potentially pose a serious challenge to Facebook. Although little is known about the platform, it seems likely that online gaming will play a pivotal role in ensuring the success of "Google Me."

According to the Wall Street Journal, Google has asked a number of industry heavyweights - including Playdom, EA's Playfish and Zynga - to offer their games on the upcoming service.

Could online gaming power Google's social networking platform?Amir Efrati of the WSJ explained that Google's foray into the social gaming world highlighted the company's "latest attempt" to capture users and advertising dollars which are "increasingly flowing" to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. 

"For social-game developers, a successful Google offering would mean they wouldn't be so heavily dependent on Facebook, where the vast majority of users access the games," wrote Efrati.

"Consumers' appetite for social games is booming — Zynga's 'Farmville' game has more than 60 million active monthly users — and that is attracting bigger players looking to tap new sources of growth."

Similarly, Lon Safko, who co-authored the Social Media Bible, told TechNewsWorld that Google's interest in online gaming was "all about" ad revenue.

"Facebook has figured it out. Get the traffic, sell the ads and even-split the ad rev with its members. It's what Google has been doing on the public side," said Safko.

Playfish"[Clearly], they need to find a large source of new ad revenue. Where better than to try to tap into the [500 million] member base at Facebook?"

However, Safko warned that Google hasn't been very "effective" at bringing copycat products successfully to market. 

"[So], unless Google can offer something astonishing that isn't available at Facebook, then I don't see Google's venture succeeding."


Technologizer's Jared Newman seemed to concur.

"Seeing as Zynga, Playdom and Playfish are all entrenched in Facebook, Google's social glue would have to be quite different [to succeed].

"[Yes], negotiations with big publishers is a sign that Google is increasingly serious about gaming, but Google also needs to look out for the next big thing. 
[Yet], I don't see it coming from the three companies mentioned in the Wall Street Journal's report."