The Google platform also gives a first real social gaming alternative to Facbeook. After the Google+ launch, there are a number of areas worth watching, since Google+ is a key part of Google's overall strategy.
Will Games Get Viral Growth On Google+?
Facebook games such as Zynga's FarmVille originally grew to massive scale with the ability for developers to send large numbers of email invites and post game notifications in the Facebook News Feed. Facebook later clamped down on these viral notifications.
In Google+, however, people only see game notifications when they click on the games tab. And sharing on Google+ is more granular with Google Circles, which makes it less simple to share achievements across your Circles. On Facebook games, you just click to share with friends after you reach a new level or achievement. With Google you have to select which group of friends you want to share with. In one feature to boost growth, while you're playing a Google+ game, there is a strip below the game with your friends where you can click to invite them to play. Developers like to see their "K-factor"--a term borrowed from epidemiology--above 1.0, meaning that more than one user was added as a friend of each existing user. That means the app is growing exponentially.
Will Google add other features to boost game distribution? Facebook has just launched major additions to its platform that include a real-time ticker of friends' achievements in games that place the Facebook platform ahead in terms of features.
The growth of Google+ games and the platform itself are tied together. The growth of games depends on the wider adoption of Google+. And a successful games platform will draw more people to Google+. In a potentially positive sign for Google, an Experian Hitwise study found that Google+ is growing among the baby boomer or "Kids and Cabernet" set. "(I)n just over six weeks, we’ve moved from innovators to early adopters to early mainstream users visiting the new social network," Hitwise says.
What Cut Will Google Take After The 5% Promotional Fee Ends?
One of the big attractions for developers is Google's 5% fee on transactions for virtual goods. Facebook currently charges 30% for Facebook Credits. That 5% cut is what Google charges across all its app developers. The fee will likely go up, but the amount of the fee will be watched closely by developers. Will it force Facebook to drop its fee? Facebook executives maintain that price is not the main factor attracting developers--the number of Facebook users is.
How Quickly Will Other Developers Build On Google+?
Google+ launched its games platforms with 16 games from 10 developers. However, two developers, Zynga and Kabam, are Google investments. Will others who were not part of the launch quickly jump in? Or will they wait to see how growth is on the platform first? One company I talked with last week, Crowdstar, which was not part of the launch, already has resources allocated to Facebook and iOS and didn't seem in a hurry to get on Google+. For companies to build on both Facebook and Google+ they'll want to see continuing strong growth on Google+ and strong engagement to start allocating big resources to the new platform.
Will People Use Google Checkout?
Google Checkout has never really taken off in the payments space, as much as Google has tried to invest in the service. If Google Checkout is a turn-off for people playing games on Google+, that could be an obstacle to growth of virtual goods and game play on the platform. But if people end up liking Checkout it could be a plus for Google+. So far payments on the service seem to be limited tocredit or debit cards through Google Checkout. There is not yet PayPal, carrier billing or other methods. But...
When Will Games Move To Mobile And Android?
The major news of Google's deal to acquire Motorola Mobility brings a host of new possibilities for Google+ and its games. For mobile games, which is still a developing market in the U.S., the deal opens up new opportunities for Google. For payments it offers another payment option. Don't like Google Checkout or entering in your credit card number to pay? Click this button to pay through your mobile carrier. It makes even more sense with Motorola Mobility than it already did with Android integration. Like Apple, which has its users' credit cards for quick payments through iTunes, Google could leverage mobile for payments and games. Mobile is one area of games that Facebook does not have an advantage over Google as of now (though Facebook's surely working on it).
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