So do you think it might mean something that Google has been making some big investments in social gaming, the most recent of which (unconfirmed by Google, but widely reported) is a virtual currency platform for games? Yeah, I think it might. As in Google is going to own the social gaming space really soon along with the related ad revenues it will suddenly be able to command.
Google makes its money on ads. Sure, it makes money in lots of other ways, but ads are its bread and butter. Always have been and certainly will be for the foreseeable future. Google can charge a premium for its contextual text ads because the company's algorithms are remarkably effective at displaying ads that users just might actually click through, given their search histories.
Let's fast forward a little bit to when Google invariably launches some sort of social service (most folks are taking bets on Google Me being the answer) that engages people in activities that inherently keep them online longer. Add that to a growing body of profile data and analytics applied to everything you do, say, post, buy, and click in any integrated social games and suddenly you'll be using Social Gold to buy that item that you absolutely have to have in PioneerVille that you saw advertised while you were playing SuperPoke.
You get the idea. While I've been wondering just what the heck Google was doing with all of these gaming acquisitions, investments, and not-so-secret talks since they seem to have so little relationship to their core business of search, it's becoming pretty clear now. Google's core business isn't search; it's advertising. Anything they can do to keep you on their properties longer and learn more about you gives them more opportunities to surface ads that are increasingly relevant.
This sounds kind of like a bad thing, especially if you have a decent streak of paranoia. However, it's nothing that Facebook isn't doing already. Google just has the technology and the engineering brainpower to do it a whole lot better. They also have years of search profiles with which to aggregate these new data streams. It's a statistician's heaven. And an advertiser's treasure trove.
It's not a bad thing. It's just business and one more aspect of our digital footprints of which consumers will need to be aware. And one more element of Google's business that will probably propel it to new levels of growth as traditional search stagnates and semantic search relies on ever-increasing data stores for accuracy.