Google says it is cautiously optimistic about its rollout of games on Google+, calling it the first step in an ambitious plan to turn the fast-growing social network into a powerful platform. The launch of games, expected for some time, includes 16 titles from 10 developers, most of them Flash games that have been designed to work on Google+.
Google’s Punit Soni, lead product manager for Google+ Games and Mobile, and Google’s VP of product Bradley Horowitz told reporters today that the company is content to roll out slowly and absorb lessons as it builds for a much bigger future for its social-networking platform. Horowitz said that a measured rollout of games is the the start of a process that will see the company add more applications that can build on Google+’s API.
Horowitz said that a key selling point for Google+ Games is how clean it is for users and non-users alike — the Google VP said the idea was to keep spam and other kinds of unwanted invitations and updates out of a user’s stream, maintaining the integrity of their experience. That seems like a fairly obvious dig at Facebook and complaints from some users about unwanted game-related content appearing in their stream.
Horowitz said that Google debated early on about the need for games, and whether that was consistent with Google’s mission. But he said it became clear that games weren’t a diversion but could become a core part of the company’s approach to social.
Soni said that Google will also be competing hard for exclusives and will be pushing to get differentiated games that build off the unique features of Google+. He hinted at games that could take advantage of multi-person chats through Hangouts as an example of games that could be unique to the platform. Cross-platform games that could work between between mobile devices and computers are also a goal the company is looking at, Soni said, and will hopefully attract developers.
“We’re going to be very aggressive to make sure our users are happy and as we do that, new games will come and exciting things will happen and we’ll have people beating down our doors to get in,” Soni said.
Soni said that Google will also only charge 5 percent on in-app purchases and transactions — although that will be a promotional rate with a final percentage to be set later. That could be a big opportunity to lure developers away from Facebook, which takes 30 percent of transactions. And even just providing a viable alternative to Facebook could attract some developers who want to diversify their options.
Soni said the key thing now is making sure games can work on the platform, adding that the API is in its infancy but will evolve over time to include more features.”The focus here is the platform, it’s to make sure we can provide an ecosystem that’s interesting for developers and you have an interesting and enhanced experience for users,” the Google executive said.