What’s Next for Google+ — Maybe a Social Game Network?

On Tuesday, Google launched one of its biggest social initiatives yet, called the Google+ project.

So, what might be next for the aspiring social network?

Probably a social game network, and based on what I am hearing from multiple sources, it sounds like Google is close to launching one that could rival Facebook.

A Google spokeswoman would not confirm that a social game network was in the works, but provided this statement: “It’s important to keep in mind this is an ongoing project and this is just the beginning. We plan to add a lot of features and functionality to Google+ over time. We’re just excited to get started.”

Over the past three years, Facebook has helped spawn a whole new category of games that allow you to play with your friends online.

Along the way, it has also helped build several million-dollar companies. Zynga, which is reportedly going to file for an IPO any second, is the largest. Others, such as Playfish and Playdom, have been acquired by Electronic Arts and Disney respectively.

The Google+ project is the company’s most cohesive social strategy yet, so it would be the most likely candidate for more services and features to be layered on top over time, including a social game network.

Google already sells games, like Angry Birds, through its Chrome Web Store, and recently has gotten more seriously into social gaming, for example, through its venture arm’s lead investment in Kabam. (There are also some hints in the Google+ source code that games are coming. Engadget discovered that the code says “have sent you Game invites and more from Google+ Games.”)

Google’s quest to enter the social games market likely kicked off more than a year ago.

Last summer, Google invested more than $100 million in Zynga, which TechCrunch reported was part of a larger strategic partnership.

Shortly after the investment, Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO at the time, verified the company’s involvement in the game company. When asked about Google’s partnership with Zynga, Schmidt told the WSJ, “we haven’t announced it” but “you can expect a partnership with Zynga” in the future.

If Zynga files for a public offering, we may find out more of the details as soon as today.

Strategically, Google’s entrance into the space could be a big deal to developers looking for a platform to build on outside of Facebook, which has a lot of control over the social games market.

For example, starting Friday, it will be mandatory for all game companies to use Facebook Credits as the only in-game currency. And Facebook takes a 30 percent cut of all of that revenue.

Google could offer an outlet for developers that charged less to use. Plus, for all of the companies that are sick of competing (and losing) against Zynga all the time, Google’s entrance could give them the opportunity to start again with a fresh slate.

Google will still have to prove it can be a successful platform to make it worth a developer’s time.

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— David Pogue on why he’s joining Yahoo