How Google+ Games Undercuts Both Facebook and Apple

Published on August 11, 2011
by Tricia Duryee

Google’s move into videogames today should scare both Facebook and Apple, the two leading next-generation game platforms.

In particular, what should be frightening is that Google is attempting to break today’s 30 percent cut that has become standard across both Facebook and Apple.

In a video interview with reporters, Google+ Games Product Manager Punit Soni explained that initially Google will share 95 percent of the revenue from virtual goods sold with the developers and keep only five percent for itself.

That confirms what I originally reported hearing from sources last month.

Soni said it could change in the future, but pricing today will be based on the company’s new in-app payments platform, which charges five percent for microtransactions on the Web (unlike the 30 percent Google charges on Android).

While it’s obvious how this might make Facebook uncomfortable, it should also worry Apple, if there’s enough pressure from developers to shift the standard to something less rich.

Soni also said today that Google is interested in allowing games to be played cross-platform, meaning a person could pause their game on the Web and then pick back up in the same place on their phone.

“There’s nothing to announce today, but it’s something we are looking at,” he added.

Of the 16 games that were released by 10 developers today, one of them was developed in HTML5. The rest were built in Flash. The industry has high hopes for HTML5 unifying both the Web and mobile, by making it possible for software to be written once and run across multiple devices.

If Google+ games could run through the browser on the iPhone or iPad, it could undercut Apple on its own device.

In that scenario, of course, consumers would have to find a compelling reason to switch from playing games that are downloaded through the App Store to playing games through a Google+ experience. Regardless, it should be comforting to developers who are uneasy with the control that either Apple or Facebook has from time to time.

Bradley Horowitz, VP of Product for Google+, also dropped in to the “hangout” session with reporters to give his thoughts on expanding into games.

“We don’t consider ourselves experts at making compelling games, but we can bring a lot to the party,” he said. “There were some internal debates about whether Google was well-suited to have games in our repertoire and what is the value of games to the users. There’s tremendous value for users. They provide a way for people to connect, discover and interact with each other … We don’t see games contrary to our mission, or a diversion. We see them as being core.”

Return to: How Google+ Games Undercuts Both Facebook and Apple