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Google Plus Games Arrive to Challenge Facebook

Here come the Google Plus games. Google has announced a big move toward mainstream adoption today, integrating Web-based games within the brand new social network. “We want to make playing games online just as fun, and just as meaningful, as playing in real life,” the announcement says. Titles include Angry Birds, Bejeweled Blitz, Zynga Poker and Sudoku. Google has launched a new Google Plus Platform Blog to help encourage more.

Google seems a bit concerned about the distraction factor, though, and it wants to make sure these games don’t get in the way of your +1ing, sharing and other important Google Plus business. “Games in Google Plus are there when you want them and gone when you don’t,” the announcement says. “If you’re not interested in games, it’s easy to ignore them.”

In every respect, from letting in members to developing mobile apps, the Google Plus project has been careful in its progress. A hasty implementation of games, or one that would cause a backlash, would be a major setback, and this announcement is worded to soothe that concern. But games have been expected since the launch of Google Plus (or earlier) and despite the company’s refusal to comment, multiple hints have been found in code and help documents.

As we reported last year, Google has quietly invested as much as $200 million in social game developer Zynga, maker of such illustrious titles as Farmville and Mafia Wars. Zynga’s business, while huge, has been almost entirely dependent on Facebook so far. As GigaOm’s Ryan Kim points out, Google Plus won’t have top Zynga titles like Cityville and Farmville because they’re exclusive to Facebook, but $200 million is sure to land Plus some fresh new titles of its own.

Game On Between Google Plus and Facebook

Games are an important feature for a social network that wants to compete with Facebook for users’ attention, not to mention its gaming business. “There is terrific potential for games on Google Plus,” Billy Pidgeon, a game analyst at M2 Research, told VentureBeat games specialist Dean Takahashi in a report on developer anticipation of games on Google Plus two weeks ago. “Opening up gaming on other social networks gives other publishers more opportunity to compete outside the Zynga-Facebook matrix, and can also help Zynga escape dependence on Facebook.” Takahashi wrote that he spoke to a number of game developers who were confident that Games on Plus would launch soon and that it “would change the game industry” when it does.

The battle for game developer attention is likely to be heated. Tricia Duryee reported late last month at All Things D that multiple sources told her Google would try to undercut Facebook by charging developers a lower fee for things like in-app sales.

Mike Swift, a writer at the San Jose Mercury News (Silicon Valley’s paper of record), says that Facebook has already issued a call for a press conference on the topic of gaming tomorrow.

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