Five things we want to see in the Google Games network
The past few weeks have seen a distinct ramp up in rumors surrounding a new Google social network in the works -- with social gaming being a big part of those rumored plans. Even though we have no details on what such a service would look like, we're pretty excited about the potential of what a company like Google could do to revolutionize social gaming as we know it. Here are five features we'd like to see Google look into if and when they finally enter the social gaming arena.
Recommendations: One of the best things about Google's search algorithm is that it almost always seems to magically know exactly what you want, no matter how cryptic the search phrase. Imagine if you had these same sort of magical recommendations to guide you to interesting social games. Google's experience finding patterns in reams of data could help their social network lead players to the games they're most likely to like.
And rest assured, Google would have reams of data to work with; from the play habits of you and your friends to your physical location to your search history and even the contents of your Gmail and Google Docs accounts. Sure it's a little creepy to think about all the data Google collects about an average user, but if they're going to be mining that data anyway, they may as well pay you back with some interesting game recommendations, right?
YouTube/Picasa integration: Social gamers love to share their creations with the world, both in-game and with the wider web. But getting a video of your Pet Society apartment onto Youtube is an onerous process, involving arcane knowledge of screen capture and video editing programs. There's no reason these web-sharing features shouldn't be built in to social games, and Google seems well-positioned to provide it via its ownership of sharing sites Youtube and Picasa.
Imagine every Google Game having convenient "take screenshot" and "capture video" buttons in the corner, allowing players to post their in-game creations on the web with a single click. Imagine how thousands of these videos would help the viral spread of the most interesting of these games. Imagine a social gaming world opened up beyond the walls of the social network.
Keep reading for more features we'd like to see on a Google Games network.
Open standards: Despite being a near monopoly in the search space, Google has been incredibly ready to accept open Internet standards in areas as diverse as video, instant messaging and even social networks. By using these open social standards in their network, Google would make it easy for developers to build new features on top of the base Google creates, making the network more robust and feature-packed at no cost to Google. For games, using open APIs would make it easier for game-makers to port their games between social networks, and even theoretically share user data from one network with players on another.
Android support: While Flash has been a great platform for getting relatively robust games onto networks like Facebook, it presents a problem when a developer wants to port those games to mobile platforms like the iPhone, where Flash is not supported. Google's Android mobile phones have no such restriction, meaning many of the most popular social games can already be run on their mobile operating system (albeit somewhat slowly). This kind of Android integration should be built into the Google Games DNA, making it easy for developers to roll out an Android-optimized versions of their social games alongside the web-based versions. If there's one killer app that can give Android the edge it needs over the iPhone, wider availability of social gaming is it.
Maps: Location-aware gaming has become a key part of social gaming recently, with apps like FourSquare and MyTownfinding success. Google should build off its robust Maps service to apply these technologies to more social games, allowing players to opt-in to share their location, whether on a mobile phone, laptop, or just sitting at their home computer. Location awareness would let players compare their scores to players in their region, or find games that are popular in their area, or even see a map of people currently playing their favorite game within a set radius. In fact, it looks like that cute girl by the window is playing Frontierville. If you'll excuse me...