YouTube video last week promoting a Google Maps-powered game coming to Google+ Games in February. It involves rolling a ball around a cube covered with 3D Google maps. Players apparently get extra points for hitting Zagat-rated businesses, promoting Google's acquisition of the review publisher last year.Google has resorted to gamification to drive interest in its location services. It posted a
"Play your world, like never before," is the promotion's slogan. It ends with a link to Google's new Start Here page for Google Maps, which offers a detailed walkthrough of the service. This gives Google a chance to show off all the new features of Maps, such as interior mapping and crowd-sourced map-making. If Facebook's history is any indication, one surefire way to drive social network eyeballs to something is to turn it into a game.
Google's first integration of Maps into Google+ came last September with the sharing of live maps and directions on G+. The game is more of an obvious promotional effort. The intersection of mobile, social and location services is Google's next big thing, and dedicated competitors like Foursquare are iterating quickly.
As an ad company, Google wants to control the end-to-end search for local places and businesses. That's why it's pushing its Google Places recommendations into Maps despite formidable, focused competitors in the space like Foursquare and Yelp. The next frontier is mapping inside locations, which Bing has worked on, as well as other single-minded start-ups.
The acquisition of Zagat gave Google a wealth of premium content to complement user-generated Google Places reviews. Google+ and personalized search are becoming Google's key signals for generating recommendations to users, but it won't hold a candle to Foursquare's recommendation power until it's widely adopted. Zagat reviews will give Google Places a bit of a boost, and they're prominently displayed in this game-based promotion.
Do you play games on your social networks?