Google this week launched, in beta form, its Facebook-like collection of sharing and social networking tools, called Google+ (or Google Plus, in conversation). It’s about half tweaked versions of existing Google tools, such as chat (video and text), profiles, and ‘like’-style link promotion, along with some new features, including Circles and Hangouts (a related-interest network and group chat room, respectively).
In fact, we’ve heard more than a few times that “Google+ looks and functions a lot like Facebook, almost embarrassingly so.” The Google Stream looks a heck of a lot like the Facebook news feed. Google+ profiles look very much like your Facebook profile page, and so on. Now, it’s very possible the immense reach of Google will be enough to bring users over from Facebook, but without a unique killer app, Google had better make sure any of the must-have features people love about Facebook are replicated.
That’s why it’s going to be very interesting to see where, if anywhere, Google fits Facebook-like games into the Google+ universe. Are deals with Zynga, Popcap, and others on the way? Or is Google going to build its own social games, as evidenced by this recent job opening for a games product manager? Further evidence: Engadget reports that there are references to a future gaming service hidden in some of the underlying Google+ code, which calls the service simply Google+ Games.
The potential upside is huge, with Google’s Checkout online transaction system standing in for Facebook credits, and social game companies always eager to break Facebook’s stranglehold on the the social games space. Tech news site All Things D agrees, writing yesterday that “Strategically, Google’s entrance into the space could be a big deal to developers looking for a platform to build on outside of Facebook, which has a lot of control over the social games market.”
At the same time, the challenge is big. Google has already proven social networking isn’t as easy as it looks, with Buzz and Wave, and at least one writer has already knocked Google+ as being “like Facebook with no people."