August 05, 2010, 8:03 AM — Google had an interesting day yesterday with two bits of news that may or may not be tangentially related.
The first was the announcement that they've stopped development on Google Wave. The announcement has all the details, but the gist of the story is that not many people were using the tool. Google's engineers learned a lot in building Wave, and it's safe to say parts of the code will make their way into other Google products.
So strike one Google "social networking tool" (though to be fair Wave was never really pitched in that way). We've still got Google Buzz, right? Snark if you will but I actually use Buzz quite a bit, mostly as a supplement to Twitter (when conversations get too intense for 140 characters, we move to Buzz).
But what about Google Me, the rumored social network that Google is building to rival Facebook? Last month I talked a little about this mythical service after a rumor cropped up saying Google was investing in social game publisher Zynga. We haven't heard anything new on that front since, but yesterday word broke that Google was buying Slide (for $182 or $228 million, depending on who you ask). What does Slide make? Facebook games. Actually, let's decouple the games from the service and just call them social games. TechCrunch says the deal will be made official on Friday (and that this isn't the last gaming related move Google will be making).
According to a Nielsen report released earlier this week, in June Americans spent 10.2% of their time online playing games. The only activity that absorbed more time were social networks at 22.7% and it's a pretty sure bet that some of that time was actually game-related, between the viral spam these social games post to Facebook Walls and folks asking friends to grow some eggplants so they can finish a quest in Frontierville. (Not that I would know anything about that.)
The point is that online games are a huge pie and one that Google seems serious in getting a piece of. Wave wasn't getting any traction but some of the parts of Wave would work really well in a game-focused social network (I know people who were already experimenting with using Wave as a collaborative gaming tool). I'm thinking mostly of the real-time updating and sharing of files between users. What if Google is moving the Wave engineers over to an unannounced Google Me, (or maybe it's just called Google Games), project?
Could the death of Wave be part of the birth of Google Games? Does Google have any chance of making headway in the social gaming space at this point?