Google vs Facebook: The Next Battle in Social Games

Now that Disney has bought Playdom and the battle between Zynga versus Playdom is no more, the next battle in social games will be played on a higher level.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Google is developing a social games rival to take on Facebook. This is old news (TechCrunch reported earlier that Google invested $100 million in Zynga), but there are a few (admittedly, very few) interesting tidbits in the WSJ article.

  • Google is non-committal about its plans. In various interviews, Google CEO Eric Schmidt would not confirm the development of a social networking service called “Google Me” but did confirm it would be different from Facebook. He did not confirm the announcement of a Zynga announcement but did say that a partnership exists. Either Google is being cagey (smart) or they don’t have a plan (more likely).
  • The article devotes one sentence to the claims that Google has in talks with top developers to offer no new specifics. The remainder of the article is a nice summary, but is nothing new.
  • This is not games-related, but apparently a bunch of ad sales people from Google have gone to Facebook and Facebook is planning an ad service to rival Google Ad Sense. This is Google’s bread and butter, and if true, Facebook’s ad program could succeed given how many “like” buttons fill the Web these days. Games are Facebook’s bread and butter, so Google has an extra incentive to go after Facebook in social games (the best defense is a strong offense as they say).

Having said that, there is nothing that has been yet reported to indicate that Google has a viable plan to offer a social gaming service that will be competitive to Facebook.

All of Google’s attempts at social networking so far have failed (remember Buzz, anyone)? The way Google operates, with multiple different teams creating products in disconnected silos is the opposite of Facebook’s centralized approach, which is the key to success in social networking.

Google has it’s hands in gaming around Android (mobile apps), Chrome app marketplace, and now social gaming (soon to be Google Me) but there is no fearless leader putting it all together. Google has the potential to be competitive with both Apple and Facebook in gaming. Until Google hires a General Manager of Games, I can’t take any of these plans to battle with Facebook seriously.

Which brings us back to Zynga versus Playdom. So who won? The jury is still out. With Playdom selling to Disney for between $500 – 700 million, Playdom is currently in the lead but now Zynga has the ball and they don’t have to give it back. If Zynga goes public (which they will, early next year), Zynga wins.

Truth be told, both Zynga and Playdom will both emerge when the history book on social games is closed. The losers will be every other social games company that can no longer eke out a living on Facebook (unless Google has its way) and can no longer sell out to companies like Playdom.

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