Google made more waves today, telling the world that its Google+ social network will now include games — just like its rival Facebook, where users already while away billions of hours tending vegetables, wacking enemies and making videogame characters react to songs.
Google told its staffers in no uncertain terms that their year-end bonuses would depend on how well they integrated social features into Google — a massive company with its fingers in all sorts of pies that nonetheless makes most of its money from simple search advertising. So it’s no surprise to see Google double down on its social network by adding “app-games” like Angry Birds. But it’s only the beginning.
Google+ Games is the big news today, but as suggested in this widely-circulated article, the company has another big opportunity to stick it to Facebook: joining its music locker service to Google+. This would allow people to listen to music together as they talk about it on Google+, similarly to the way they do on Turntable.fm and other group listening services
However, Google+ and Google Music aren’t getting together — yet, anyway.
“It’s still really early stages for Music Beta and there isn’t yet a connection with G+,” Google spokeswoman Gina Weakley told Evolver.fm.
Facebook doesn’t have a music locker, but it’s in the process of integrating music from Spotify, MOG, and others more tightly. But, like Google+, Facebook has yet to roll out a meaningful social music strategy, although its game apps are immensely popular. Perhaps because its app selection was so shameful in some areas, Facebook recently deleted its app section, so now you have to search to find apps. In addition, Facebook commands 30 percent of developers’ revenue, whereas Google+ only charges them 5 percent.
Google+ already has plenty to tempt developers to make games there in addition to on Facebook — even though ComScore estimates that 25 million people use Google+, which pales in comparison to its rival’s claim of 750 million active users. Google+ is growing, lists all games, has a music locker service, and charges developers one-sixth of what Facebook does. No wonder Facebook reacted to today’s news so quickly, with a message to its app developer community about platform enhancements.
Google+ also has one huge structural advantage over Facebook, which meshes perfectly with the unique requirements of social music: Google Circles.
Google Circles lets Google+ users cluster friends, associates, and colleagues into different groups, so that they can easily share certain stuff with different sets of people. You might share a track or collaborate on a playlist with your dorky college friends, but you’d never want your hipster city friends or work colleagues to know about your secret love for the Spin Doctors.
Google teases ever so slightly at the notion of integrating music into Google+ in its games announcement: “We’re just getting started,” reads the announcement, which links to a page where app developers (not just of games) can sign up to receive announcements about future Google+ APIs.
In other words, other Google+ APIs will follow this one. This could and should include ways for developers to let users listen to music from their Google Music locker along with the people in certain Google+ Circles. At the very least, we imagine Google Music could be integrated as the soundtrack to Google+ games — the same way you can choose your own music from your iPhone or Android library to accompany games on those platforms.
Google doesn’t currently offer a music API. Developers want one, although certain rules need to be in place. For example, Google might not want to let developers build an app that lets people share Google Music lockers with everyone on the net.
But by letting developers make Google+ apps with a Google Music API, the company would be able to offer all sorts of music sharing, collaborative playlist creating, and group listening features — and it could do it all while dictating what can and can’t be done with that music, thus avoiding sticky legal issues.