Google has continued its social gaming acquisitions by reportedly agreeing to purchase Slide for $182 million in a deal to be announced Friday. This news follows soon after their investment in Zynga of $200 million, which has been rumored to be the first step towards some sort of Google games platform. At this year’s Casual Connect, I had the opportunity to talk with the Google Chrome App Store product managers and there’s no doubt that they had a new vision for how social games could be played through their browser.
The big question here is how Google intends to integrate the technology from companies as disparate as Zynga, Slide, and their recently acquired LabPixies game team. Will the goal be to create a games platofrm that enables third-party developers to create games? This is the most likely scenario, but is it necessarily the strength of any one of these three companies? Perhaps they’re planning to release a few games across all the Google properties including Buzz, iGoogle, and others. If that’s the case, it doesn’t necessarily exclude the possibility of a platform. Companies like AuroraFeint succeeded by first developing a robust game that supported hundreds of thousands of users and then transformed that technology into the OpenFeint platform which is now used by third-party game developers.
I have to say, having worked in the social games industry for a long time, that unless Google has an absolutely rock-solid vision of how they’re planning to enter the games space, it may be difficult to crack Facebook’s hold on the social gamer. Facebook has been evolving its platform and supporting thousands of new games each month for three years. It will take a serious amount of branding, user interface design and technology to ensure that new gamers to Google’s platform can quickly and easily get to what they want.
We’ll be watching Google as they announce their plans on Slide, and report any news as soon as wel get it.