It's been an all-but-certain development since day one of Google's latest social networking experiment, but now it's official. Google+ is officially adding games, following one of the most important, and stickiest, aspects of Facebook's success. Says the Official Google Blog:
"Today we’re adding games to Google+. With the Google+ project, we want to bring the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to the web. 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."
We read that to mean that Google understands that adding gaming elements to a social network isn't just about mimicking a game console's functions in a browser window, but instead about using the challenges and rewards of games and game-like experiences to enrich the social and sharing aspects of the platform.
The launch lineup of games is impressive, including Angry Birds (no new platform is complete without it!), Zynga Poker, and the decent, if dated, Dragon Age Legends, a tie-in to the popular PC and console role-playing games.
Despite being an investor in Zynga, Google doesn't yet have access to that company's biggest gits, such as FarmVille or Empires & Allies -- an omission that presumably has much to do with the terms of Zynga's win-win special relationship with Facebook.
Learning from Facebook's mistakes, Google seems to know that gamification overkill can turn off the audience. Game updates can be turned off at will, or as the company says, "Games in Google+ are there when you want them and gone when you don’t...If you’re not interested in games, it’s easy to ignore them."
There will be a Games Hub within Google+, which will cordon off your game updates and accomplishments, and only show them to fellow gamers. That could certainly mean less aggravation for game-adverse friends who don't want to know about every last farm upgrade, but it may also ghetto-ize Google+ gaming. One of the main goals of gamification, even (or especially) when it's so explicitly game-like, is to integrate it as seamlessly as possible into the larger experience, not wall it off from anything else.
Google is rolling out Google+ games gradually, and doesn't say exactly when these new features will be available to all. For now, keep checking your Google+ account for a new Games tab, and the leave us a comment here on what you find worthwhile and/or annoying about it.
Source: Google Blog