Hoping to avoid Facebook's problems with games that spew ads, Google promises its social games will be easy to ignore.
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Replicating a critical component of Facebook's success, Google on Thursday added games to Google+, its six-week-old social network.
Google SVP of engineering Vic Gundotra described his company's foray into social entertainment as an effort to make playing online games as engaging and socially relevant as playing traditional card and board games.
"With the Google+ project, we want to bring the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to the web," Gundotra wrote in a blog post. "But sharing is about more than just conversations. The experiences we have together are just as important to our relationships. We want to make playing games online just as fun, and just as meaningful, as playing in real life."
The Google+ Games page is not yet available for everyone. In a Google+ post, VP of products Bradley Horowitz noted that Games "will roll out slowly over a number of days, so don't be alarmed or concerned if Games haven't reached you yet."
Horowitz also stressed that Google has implemented games "in a way that won't be at all harmful to your Google+ experience."
This appears to be a message motivated by Facebook's experience with games. Facebook last year revised its platform policy to discourage those offering games on its platform from soliciting for new users in game players' activity streams. Many Facebook users found these game-driven ads incessant and annoying, so much so that a few fled Facebook for Google+. At least that's what several Google+ users suggested in their alarmed replies to Gundotra's announcement.
Gundotra delivered a similar message to allay fears of rampant game-related ads: "If you're not interested in games, it's easy to ignore them." That may please Google+ users but marketers won't be thrilled. Advertising--the basis of Google's revenue--aspires to be unavoidable.
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When the Google+ Games page does become available, Google+ users will see a Games button added beside the four other buttons--Home, Photos, Profile, and Circles--in the Google+ navigation bar.
Google+ Games is launching with sixteen titles: Angry Birds, Bejeweled Blitz, Bubble Island, City of Wonder, Collapse! Blast, Crime City, Diamond Dash, Dragon Age Legends, Dragons of Atlantis, Edge World, Flood-It!, Monster World, Sudoku, Wild Ones, Zombie Land, and Zynga Poker.
In conjunction with its gaming announcement, Google also launched the Google+ Platform blog to provide information to developers who want to create games for the Google+ Platform.
Google engineering director David Glazer estimated that tens of thousands of developers have expressed interest in receiving information about creating Google+ games. But just as Google+ Games is rolling out slowly, Google is providing API information to only a small group of developers initially.
"Because we want to provide both a great user experience and a great developer experience, we’re focusing on quality before quantity," explained Glazer in a blog post. "We will continue to add new partners and new features in small steps, starting with today’s release of the games APIs to a small number of developers."
There are already unofficial Google+ APIs that rely on PHP and Java. While these can be used to extract information from Google+, it's unclear whether they will be useful for functioning Google+ applications.
Glazer advised developers who wish to be notified about Google+ Platform announcements to sign up through a link posted to the developer blog.
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