Casual gaming is becoming a big business in the electronics and social media industries. Not one to be left behind, the new social network, Google+, just released a new feature that will allow users to play games on its site. Google's announcement included games such as Angry Birds, Bejewelled Blitz, Zynga Poker, Dragon Age Legends, and Crime City.
Not to be outdone, within hours of Google's announcement, Facebook introduced a slew of new features for their gaming service. Facebook now offers Game Ticker, which transforms the right-side chat column into a newsfeed of friends' game activity. It will display which games friends are playing as well as achievements and high scores. Clicking on a Game Ticker story will take you to that game so that you can play with your friends. You can also control which stories appear and don't appear in the stream.
Facebook users will also have more room to play as the site has introduced an expanded-screen mode for games. Users can also bookmark their favourite games so that they're easily accessible from the News Feed.
Google is clearly trying to compete with Facebook by undercutting many of its services.
One of the problems for Google is that its search engine can't index much of Facebook's information. If more online advertising switches to Facebook, this could cause a significant revenue loss for Google.
With the Google's announcement, Vic Gundotra, senior vice president of engineering for Google, stressed that the games won't be appearing in everyone's stream.
“That means giving you control over when you see games, how you play them and with whom you share your experiences, Gundotra wrote on Thursday. “Games in Google+ are there when you want them and gone when you don’t.” Likewise, your scores will only be displayed to people in one of your circles when they themselves are interested in playing games too. “If you’re not interested in games, it’s easy to ignore them,” Gundotra writes. “Your stream will remain focused on conversations with the people you care about.”
This statement is a clear response to the Facebook model for social gaming where game makers are able to use a user's newsfeed to post updates on games and to reach a large number of people. Many non-gaming users of Facebook have grown frustrated and annoyed with the constant notifications of their friends' progress through various games. Facebook has since changed the notification system so that users would only receive updates about games which they had already installed.
Google+ is the fastest growing social network having signed up over 10 million users since its release in June. It still has a long way to go in competing with Facebook however, which dominates with over 750 million users.