Game Withdrawal Just Another Bad Sign for Google+

You have to feel a bit sorry for Google, whose social networking service Google+ is starting to lose games from name companies like Wooga and PopCap. To check out what’s going on, I installed Bubble Island from Wooga.

Currently it’s still in the catalog under the install address plus.google.com. But on launching the app, I was presented with a banner saying “Time to say Goodbye. Bubble Island will leave Google+ on July 1st”.

Wooga isn’t doing too badly on Facebook. Currently it has about 40 million monthly average users (MAUs) across seven  apps. (For comparison Zynga, the most active game published on Facebook, has 255 MAUs across 81 apps.)

Wooga’s pulling out because of costs. Despite Google+ only taking a 5 percent cut from game revenues. Wooga has to allocate developers to each platform it’s active on, and Google+ isn’t providing high enough numbers. In 2011, Wooga pulled out from another social network,  StudiVZ. Developers aren’t cheap.

Fighting The Wrong Battle

Also, I wonder if Google is being too honest in its privacy notices, which could have deterred gamers from installing apps. I’ve avoided installing many games because I don’t like sharing this activity with people in my circles. Remember that a few years back, Facebook had challenges getting players to install games once they realized how much information was being shared.

Is it too late for Google+? I don’t think so, but its executives must be thinking long and hard about where to go next. In the year since the social network launched, its impact on Facebook’s growth has been marginal.

There’s probably no single thing Google can do to tip the balance. But not all news for the company is bad. The Chrome Web store continues to expand its reach, just recently entering  six countries — Turkey, Ukraine, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and the UAE. If Google were to invest a few million dollars in converting game titles to use Native Client, it may well gain a lot of players. After all, Native Client’s fast-action gaming is superior to Flash.

But as it stands now, Google+ has fought the wrong battle, and it’s losing. Writing in Wired, Steven Levy sums it up very well: “(The) place risks becoming an ‘Emptytown’ where people try it, are unable to connect with anyone and then forget about it.’

Google, it’s time to pick another battlefield.

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