It's pretty much a given these days that games are by far the most popular application on Facebook. The social gaming boom has been enormous and everybody wants a piece of the pie. Google saw that and started getting developers on board with Google+ for games on its service. Games might not be that big of a part of Google+ in the future if things don't change.
Gamasutra recently spoke to developers who had created games for Google+. What they found was a lot of reluctance on the part of developers to actually talk about their successes or failures. Not talking is worrying, especially when it comes to a game's performance. It's a far cry from Facebook who regularly displays games in their developer spotlight feature as one of the application types pushing adoption of new features like single sign-in and Open Graph.
Developers from big names like PopCap, creators of popular social game Bejeweled Blitz, to lesser known developers like Kabam are being really selective when talking about their experiences with the platform. They all tell Gamasutra the same story: Google+ is comparable to Facebook, but no specific numbers can be reported.
At least one person on the inside, Chris Hinton, VP of Central Game Services at Playdom, came out to elaborate a little. His position is one of Google+ still being the new kid on the block. He compares the current development on Google+ with their development of games in the early days of Facebook.
But are there any numbers indicating how many people are playing games on Google+ or how long people are engaged? Hinton says that a Facebook player spends about 45 minutes playing game and that Google+ numbers are comparable. That's all we're going to get until people start reporting real numbers.
The more interesting case, however, comes from Kabam. Their recent game The Godfather: Five Families received plenty of support from Google in terms of advertising and other perks in exchange for exclusivity. This story seems to be the kind of success that Google needs to aim for more.
The experience of Kabam seems to correlate with a recent study that found more developers will be going to Google over Facebook this year. While the report was more about developers in general instead of games, I think we can apply at least a few of the findings here. The biggest one being that Google offers better engagement and help when it comes to developing apps for their platforms.
Google needs to leverage their position as a friend to developers to start getting more original and exclusive content. Social gaming is growing up very fast and sooner or later, the players are going to start having the same fights as console gamers do now. People will be picking sides - Google+ or Facebook? Google+ needs to make sure that it has an arsenal of unique and exciting features to set its exclusives apart besides just being on the platform.
Look at the recent public launch of Hangouts On Air. That has the potential to revolutionize social gaming and not in the sense of just being able to see your opponent during a game of virtual chess. That's small fry stuff and far too easy. I'm thinking more along the lines of Tabletop Forge, the Hangouts powered tabletop roleplaying game recently demoed by Google. Those are the kind of experiences that Google+ should be aiming for.
Let's take that idea to the next level though. We already know how popular professional gaming tournaments are especially with the likes of StarCraft II. Imagine if Blizzard released a free-to-play version of StarCraft II's multiplayer on Google+ with Hangouts On Air functionality. That would bring tournaments to an even larger audience through the power of social media. These are the kind of experiences that Google should be aiming for instead of its current range of games that are either on Facebook or games that are too similar to what Facebook offers.
I want to say that games have a bright future on Google+. There are a lot of features that developers can take advantage of that would definitely set the platform apart from its competitors. It's a shame that none of them aspire to anything beyond what we can already find on Facebook.
Being under the label of social gaming is not an excuse to stick to the status quo set by the likes of Zynga. Google+ has, to me at least, always presented itself not as a Facebook competitor, but rather a unique experience unto itself. It's about time game developers took the same stance when approaching the platform.
Do you think game developers are seeing a good return from Google+ compared to Facebook? Should they be stepping up their efforts to take advantage of the unique properties offer by Google+? Let us know in the comments.