Social gaming hits prime time as rumors of Google's entry surface

Rumors of Google's entry into social networking kick off with excitement over social gaming.

Google is working on a social networking service to rival Facebook and social games such as Zynga's Farmville appear to be a key component of it, according to a Wall Street Journal report late Tuesday.

Though it was unclear when such a service might launch, Google is reportedly in talks with game developers to be a part of it, unnamed sources told the Journal.

Among the game developers it is talking to: Playdom, which Disney said Tuesday that it is acquiring. Others include Playfish, by Electronic Arts, and Zynga. In an interview with the WSJ, Google CEO Eric Schmidt would not confirm a social network and, when asked if Google's service would look like Facebook's, Schmidt replied, "the world doesn't need a copy of the same thing."

Still, social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have the one thing that advertisers love most - eyeballs. Facebook recently surpassed the 500 million mark for subscribers. In its press release announcing the Playdom acquisition, Disney noted that Playdom engages about 42 million active players each month.

In that same release, Playdom CEO John Pleasants said we are at the beginning of a "once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the way people of all ages play games with their friends across devices, platforms and geographical boundaries."

Social gaming already represents big money business, with the U.S. trailing. Still, the $700 million U.S. social gaming market in 2009 is expected to triple by 2012.

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