Game On For Google Plus — And Facebook

Facebook is not playing games when it comes to games, announcing a host of new features and homepage tweaks late Thursday, seeking to draw the limelight away from the debut of games on Google Plus, which was also announced Thursday.

The enhancements rolled out by Facebook are aimed at making games more accessible to users, as well as making it easier for friends to share game activities.

Games including CityVille, Zoo World, Monster World, and Mystery Manor will be among the first to undergo the transition that will be most obvious to users — a much bigger, full-screen gaming window.

The bookmarks section was also revamped so that the apps a user accesses most appear atop newly organized sections, and a favorites category was added.

Also new is a gaming activity stream alongside the apps, which updates users on games their friends are playing and their progress.

The gaming canvas page now features bookmarks on the top right part of the page, making it easier for users to toggle between games and access the apps they use most.

Here’s how the improvements are described in a post on the Facebook Blog by “ninja of product design” Jared Morgenstern:

When you’re playing games, you’ll now see a separate stream of your friends’ game activity, scores, and achievements in a ticker. The best way to find new games is through friends, and now you’ll have more opportunities to see what they’re playing.

Maybe your best friend has started playing Sims; your roommate has a new high score on PacMan; or your mom and sister have taken up Words with Friends. Simply click on a story and you can start playing the game yourself.

You can now control who can see these stories for each individual app in your Settings. If you want friends to see that you’re playing one game but not another, you can change that. You’re also able to limit visibility directly from the ticker by clicking “X” on a story to remove it.

We’re also introducing a bigger screen for game play so you can have a more immersive experience. You’ll begin seeing games that can expand to full-screen — such as CityVille, Zoo World, Monster World, and Mystery Manor — in the coming days.

If you use a lot of apps or games, you can now keep the best ones at the top of your bookmarks on your homepage. To add a new favorite, click the menu next to the bookmark. You can also rearrange, remove, and edit settings from the same menu.

Meanwhile, rival social network Google Plus introduced a slate of games, including Angry Birds, Bejeweled Blitz, Bubble Island, City of Wonder, Collapse! Blast, Crime City, Diamond Dash, Dragon Age Legends, Dragons of Atlantis, Edge World, Flood-It, Monster World, Sudoku, Wild Ones, Zombie Lane, and Zynga Poker.

And here’s the highlights from the Google Blog post about the game stream.

Today we’re adding games to Google Plus. With the Google Plus Project, we want to bring the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to the Web. But sharing is about more than just conversations. The experiences we have together are just as important to our relationships. We want to make playing games online just as fun, and just as meaningful, as playing in real life.

That means giving you control over when you see games, how you play them, and with whom you share your experiences. Games in Google Plus are there when you want them and gone when you don’t.

When you’re ready to play, the Games page is waiting — click the games button at the top of your stream. You can see the latest game updates from your circles, browse the invites you’ve received, and check out games that people you know have played recently. The Games page is also where your game accomplishments will appear. So you can comfortably share your latest high score — your circles will only see the updates when they’re interested in playing games, too.

If you’re not interested in games, it’s easy to ignore them. Your stream will remain focused on conversations with the people you care about.

Not wanting to have any of the spotlight taken away from them, Facebook’s communications team supplied us with a treasure trove of statistics demonstrating the social network’s might in games.

  • More than 200 million people play games on Facebook each month.
  • Social discovery is driving growth.The top 80 games on Facebook have at least 1 million active users
  • Meteor Games: The developer, which builds exclusively on Facebook, has grown its company from 35 to 100 employees in the past year, and doubling its staff every six months. Their hit game, Island Paradise, has been installed more than 20 million times in the past two years without any marketing. They have also been successfully monetizing: when they switched Ranch Town to in-game Facebook Credits, they saw a threefold increase in the number of paying players over night.
  • Funzio: Launched Crime City on Facebook last year and it quickly became one of the top five Facebook games of the year. Raised $20M in funding earlier this year, and plan to grow their business from 55 employees to 100 by the end of the year.
  • iWin: The developer of Family Feud, Deal or No Deal and 1 vs. 100 saw their monthly active userbase increase by 40 percent over the last month. Launched just last month, Deal or No Deal has grown to 900,000 monthly active users (MAU) and one versus 100 has grown by 700,000 MAUs. iWin has added 30 new employees this year and has offices in San Francisco and Kiev, Ukraine.
  • Broken Bulb Studios: Ninja Warz, the company’s first game, has stayed above 125,000 daily active users (DAU) for two years with zero marketing. They launched Miscrits: World of Adventure in January and have 4.5 million MAU. In just over a year the company has moved into a new office building and doubled its team; nine out of 10 Kabam players play daily, and play for 3 hours per day on average.
  • GSN: MAUs for the company grew from 4.8 million at the end of July 2010 to 7.5 million at the end of July 2011 (60 percent growth). DAU to MAU ratio has increased from 15 percent at the end of July 2010 to 23 percent at the end of July 2011. Additionally, the GSN Social Games team has tripled in size over the last year.
  • Nordeus (Bosnia): The small team of developers built a football app, Top Eleven, that grew to 3.5 million monthly active users in just three months. Without raising any venture funding, the developer now rivals major brands.
  • Playtika (Israel): The developer of Slotomoania and Farkle Pro draws in 4.8 million active users each month. Last year, Cesars Entertainment Corporation purchased 51 percent of the company at a value of $80 million to $90 million, the largest acquisition of an Israeli gaming company.
  • Peak Games (Turkey): Founded less than a year ago in October 2010, the company already has 50 employees, 10 games, and 10 million monthly active users playing traditional Turkish and Arabic card and board games on Facebook. On a daily basis, 2 million people play the games across five time zones, four continents, and five languages. The company has raised $7.5M, and says expects to grow to 250 million users by 2015.
  • Supercell (Finland): Founded in June 2010, the hardcore social gaming company has raised $12 million from Accel partners, and has 20 employees. Gunshine, a crime-fighting game on Facebook where players shoot criminals and other enemies, currently has more than 300,000 monthly active users.
  • Pretty Simple Games (France): In December 2010, the company launched MyShops, a game with more than 1.5 million active users that allows players to create their own shops and interact with customers. The company has raised $3.6 million in funding to date.
  • Kobojo (France): With games like Pyramidville, Goobox and RobotZ, the French developer has more than 4 million monthly active users and raised $7.75 million to date.
  • IsCool Entertainment (France): The French developer has more than 2 million monthly active users on Facebook. They are the only social gaming company listed on a public market (Euronext), and grew from 30 to 85 employees in the last 12 months.

Readers, what do you think about the social games competition that Facebook is facing?

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