Monday, August 15, 2011

10 reasons why Google+ is a better platform than Facebook for game developers as well as for gamers.

1) Soured relationships:

Facebook created a lot of bad blood with smaller game studios early last year when it started throttling its notifications sharing feature. According to the newer rules, a player could only view a specific game notification on his/her Newsfeed if he/she had already logged in and played the game before.

Most smaller game developers relied heavily on the original version of the notifications sharing feature because it helped their games go viral without investing heavily in marketing. Many emerging games failed miserably and studios either shut down or started focusing more on other platforms like mobile, browser games etc. I know this because I was one of them.

The Google+ service (atleast as of now) is universal in nature. The beauty of this service is that you can not only publicly share your notifications but can also notify only a select “Circle” of friends about your activity. This gives a lot of control to a user on how he wants his profile to look to any specific person.

This also gives smaller developers a chance to start building social media games again without worrying too much about big investments in marketing. As a former Facebook game developer, I know that the biggest hindrance we face is funding for marketing our games. It’s a win-win situation for both parties.

2) High cut of revenues:

Facebook takes a whopping 30% cut of game revenues from a publisher. Apple does the same too, but it’s far more easier to go viral on the app store than it is on Facebook because of Apple’s popular ranking system and the excellent segregation of its apps. And the Apple platform has been a boon for many smaller developers because of its low costs related to marketing and distribution of an app.

In comparison, Google+ is breaking ground here by initially charging only 5% of game revenues. This move has been welcomed by studios and there is a lot of excitement in the industry, especially among fledgling game developers eager to build the next great social game idea.

3App Store:

Surprisingly, Facebook never built out an app store like the rest of its competitors like Apple, Google, Amazon etc. An app store could have helped Facebook build a very powerful platform/ecosystem for the industry to build apps and market them prominently on this store.

Google already has its Chrome App Store live in its browsers and on its Android mobile OS. It’s a no-brainer that eventually it will make the app store available on its social networking system too. And due to the universal sharing feature and ranking system, it will make it far more easier for apps to go viral and get shared among the larger demographic. And since Google pioneered Search Engine Optimization (SEO), game developers could eventually build out optimized apps in order to feature more dominantly in Google’s rankings, thereby reducing costs related to marketing and distribution.

4) Favoritism:

The high level of favoritism that Facebook has shown for Zynga is becoming a PR nightmare for the social network. The whole world now knows the special privileges that Zynga enjoys with Facebook. Most studios have sworn off this platform due to this.

Atleast as of now, Google has shown a solid commitment to the industry by making its platform equally accessible to all. And it makes sense for Google to continue the same way.

5)  Intentions:

Facebook always modeled itself as a social networking platform and was not too serious about gaming initially. It was only after the success of games like Farmville, Mafia Wars etc that Facebook started concentrating in this segment.

For that same reason, Facebook was never the most game developer friendly platform in the social networking space. And from the way things have gone, its gaming system has only benefited the biggest companies like Zynga, Crowdstar, Kabam etc. Game-specific portals like Hi5, IWON, Mindjolt, Miniclip etc are extremely developer friendly. Hi5 is still considered one of the best platforms to market independent games because of their easy integration methods and a very strong marketing support system.

Google, for that matter has made gaming a very strong priority. It’s launching its gaming service at almost the same time as the public launch of Google+ itself and has shown a lot of commitment to building out a robust, no-strings-attached platform for game developers. If it continues to operate in the same way, it will easily surpass Facebook as the leading destination for all game developers, and eventually all browser app developers. The top gaming portals today command a user base of about 50 million monthly users. So even if Google+ can’t beat Facebook in terms of total number of users (750 million+), it’s already built out a big enough audience to succeed as a gaming portal.

6)  Innovation:

A lot of the newer games are incorporating innovative features like location-based gaming, voice activated menus, live game-room chats, video streaming etc. In each of these segments, Google+ can provide a much more powerful platform than Facebook. Here is why:
a)      Location based gaming: Google Maps is one of the most advanced mapping tools in the world and most game developers rely on this API to develop location-based games. And Google is known for providing the latest features and functionality of its tools to its own customers first (Think Stock Android on Google Nexus). It will obviously do the same for Google+ games too that use this feature.
b)      Voice activated menus: Google has invested a large amount of money in voice recognition technologies and can provide a ton of resources to developers who wish to use this feature for their games.
c)       Online video chats: Unlike Facebook, which partnered with Skype to offer live chatting, Google has its own internal tool on Google+ called Hangouts. This feature is a boon for MMO games because they can use this service to chat with other players inside a game-room.
Facebook can never be too flexible with its video chat system because it’s not internally developed and is a partnership with Skype.
d)      Video streaming: When you think of video clips, what comes to mind? YouTube right? And guess who owns YouTube? Google! As games get more sophisticated and start including live game streaming and video recording capabilities, like for example, being able to record a clip of your performance on a game and then sharing it with your friends, or being able to actually broadcast your game activity live to your friends, both of these features can be easily handled using YouTube. And all Google+ has to do is include a little icon on its browser window that allows this functionality.

7) Presence of an excellent games catalogue:

Google has launched its gaming service with a bunch of extremely popular games like Angry Birds, Diamond Dash, Bejeweled Blitz, Crime City etc. The fact that it has Angry Birds is gonna play a huge role in the initial excitement surrounding its gaming service. Farmville and Cityville are enjoyed by a huge population but still there are millions of people who can’t stand these type of games. Angry Birds has universal appeal and is the only game that can truly rival or even beat the likes of Cityville and Farmville.

Interestingly Google has already started featuring its games much like how it features them on its app store. It has a cute little games icon on top which automatically shows you its existing games catalogue.

8) Cloud gaming:

As games get more and more sophisticated and start offering much more powerful graphics and playability, all these games will start functioning more predominantly from extremely powerful cloud-based servers. Companies like Onlive, Gaikai, OToy are already doing this.

Google has always been at the forefront of Cloud Computing and has a much better understanding of this technology than most of the competition. It already has built out a cloud based OS and offers it on the Chromebook. Some of the largest server farms are owned/operated by Google. It won’t be long before games like Call of Duty, Infamous, Portal 2 etc will be available directly inside a social network. And Google has the resources, knowledge and capabilities to implement the infrastructure to cheaply and effectively handle this.

9)  Facebook marketing:

Advertising on Facebook is a funding nightmare. The costs per acquisition have skyrocketed in the past year from a low of a few cents per acquisition to close to $10 as of now. It’s no longer a feasible platform for many studios. 

Google, on the other hand has two methods of advertising that it can leverage to help smaller developers. The first one is the CPA, CPM model itself which for now is very low on the social network. The other model that Google has pioneered and can easily make accessible for developers is Search Engine Optimization. Developers could optimize their games in order to feature more predominantly in its search rankings. And if Google integrates these results into its regular Google search feature (, then this will also help developers in increasing the brand visibility of their offerings.

10) Tight integration with mobile, tablet and browser OS:

This is probably the most important aspect of Google+. 500,000 Android devices are getting activated every single day. The Android mobile OS is now the most popular platform on earth. The Android tablet and laptop OS’s are slowly catching up. And companies like Wild Tangent are already launching gaming portal systems designed specifically for Android mobile.

Most of the games that are being launched on Google+ already have a presence on Android mobile and tablets. Google+ has made it clear that it wants to integrate all these systems into one cohesive ecosystem. For example, you could start playing Angry birds on Google+, then midway through the game go to your Android phone and continue playing from where you left off. And then stop playing on your phone and continue playing on your Android tablet PC from where you left off on your Android phone!

That’s the beauty of integration. It helps in keeping a consistent leaderboard across multiple platforms, and leaves out the frustration that many gamers face today when they have to play the same game with different overall scores on every device.


As time passes and Google+ becomes more prevalent, its advantages will become more apparent to developers as well as gamers. Google may or may not surpass Facebook in terms of the total number of users, but it’s definitely poised to become one of the leading destinations online for casual games. Facebook is extremely popular in the US but outside of the country, it hasn’t exactly become a phenomenon. Google owns another social network called Orkut that’s extremely popular in South America and in countries like India, the Middle-East etc. These are all high growth countries and Google can easily integrate its games functionality on both platforms thereby offering better revenue making opportunities for game studios.

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1 comment:

  1. Well i dont see it surprising google came with such a concept, u can say ppl were expecting something to come from them.
    Fb took orkut back completely, and ggl took time to come up with the next prdct, they had to come wth a complete product offering, had risks if it didnt went well, could hit them hard.
    I would expect fb to be aggressive and start offering something better again, its like a war in the cyber domain.
    So as far as offers are concerned, fb may realign themselves, surely they do not want to lose market,
    but the most imp thing that google has is google, there isnt anyone who has come with something better;
    say if fb comes with something better in se space, in case, i would like to see , how much further this will go.
    Yes, for now g+ may have an edge, but people may take a while before u get a hang of it, we dont want to get into to much exploration from an user perspective; reason - we are all lazy. so, ppl may still stick a bit to their old fav fb.