Google+ Games – What Exactly is the Deal Anyway?

Mark Stephens

As app and game developers we’re watching developments on the rich side of town very closely. We mean over at Google, where you may have noticed that Google+ released the first wave of games on 11th August. This was met with a lot of expectation and excitement amongst game coders and users alike. It turns out the release included 16 games from 10 of the Big Boys (mainly flash games) and it’s left us little independent developers a tad restless, wondering whether we are going to get cut out of the Google+ equation in favour of the established gaming companies.

gplusWell, if you like Angry Birds, Diamond Dash, Zynga Poker and Farmville you might not care. But have a heart for us poor waifs and strays! We need to eat too…if we don’t we become angry monkeys….hang on…there must be a game there somewhere …back in a second!

So…What Next?

We investigated what’s happening over at Google+ and it’s very difficult to get much clear direction from the horse’s mouth.

Google’s VP of product, Bradley Horowitz, said that the rollout was just the start of a process that will see the company add more applications that can build on Google+’s API (Application Programming Interface – the set of rules that coders need to build into programs to get them working on a particular platform.)

Yet to date there is no sign of the details of Google’s API. Only rumours. And indignation. Lots of it.

Aaah…Here’s Someone Who’ll Know…

Over at the Google official blog we’re told “If you’re a developer interested in building games for Google+, you can learn more on our new Google+ developer blog.”

Great! So we head on over there looking for the word on the API, from none other than David Glazer, Engineering Director. Looks encouraging – “tens of thousands of you have expressed an overwhelming desire to build applications for Google+ – we can’t wait to help you out.” He invites us to “follow the discussion” …so I did.

Lots of discussion from small developers wanting to know when the API was going to be released and whether their bands of merry men would be welcomed by Google; a few irate coders becoming increasingly disgusted at a policy to seemingly open the doors to the big guys but slam them firmly shut for the independents.

Michael Han, for example, says “mixed emotions, knowing that Google is a huge supporter of free software world, and yet they only let small group of established developer companies pilot-test with their games. This gives those companies leverage that regular developers can’t possibly have… looks like they are already ahead of the game again.”

Thanks David

There were plenty of questions to David Glazer about the API.

So, David, how about the API and where the small, indy developers will fit in?

“Thanks to those of you, here and elsewhere, who are concerned that game interaction run amok would hurt the overall Google+ experience – we agree, both for games and for apps in general”
Errrr…but that wasn’t the main point of the discussion, David. How about the API?
“We don’t know if we have the balance between a great dev experience and a great user experience right yet, but we’re paying close attention.”

Right-o. Thanks David. This guy should be a politician!

In Conclusion

gplusSo, in all honesty we are not much closer to finding out whether the plan is to keep Google+ games the domain of the large game development companies or whether us little monkeys will get a look in.
Not sure if they’re deliberately avoiding the issue or they’re waiting to see how the initial batch of games go down, but a recent comment from Punit Soni, lead product manager for Google+ Games and Mobile, suggests that they already know clearly what their rollout plan is going to be.

He said that Google will only charge a 5% promotional rate on in-app purchases and transactions. This is a clear attempt to lure developers away from Facebook, which takes 30%, suggesting a strategy has already been considered carefully and is in the process of being rolled out.

And the API? Haha! Well, he’s not saying either.

It seems Google wants us to know a lot of things but is keeping the API close to its chest. We live in hope because Google have historically left the doors open for us rebel “undesirables” and now is no time to be stifling creativity, when the fight with Facebook is just beginning!