Sunday, September 14, 2008

Google and Games: Yes. Publishing? No.

A few people have pointed to an article that appeared this week on Forbes web site, speculating that Google might get into game publishing.

I think that while Google's definitely making inroads into games, which is the main thrust of the article, the article is a both a little off base on it's predictions, and also mixing up terminology some.

First, the article mentions that it could make inroads into the in-game ads market (citing casual games sites like Pogo & Real's) market using something "similar to Adsense". And also mentions that the company could use it's warchest to acquire development studios to develop titles to display those ads. This line of thinking has a number of flaws:
  • Google's already publicly stated that they intend to do 'adsense for games'
  • Casual games sites like those mentioned, or MSN's which I worked on, while this do some "in-game ads", usually advergames or 'skinned' games, do the bulk of their advertising via interstitial ads as well as ads elsewhere around the games. For those not familiar: think TV commercials vs in-show product placements.
  • Doing either of those, or even in-game ads, doesn't require acquiring a studio. Lots of examples out there today of people using technology solutions to connect ads with other parties' content.
Which brings me to the second and main issue I take with the article: That I don't think believe the content publishing business - where specifically I mean publishing to mean "the business of funding and otherwise aiding the production and bringing to market of content" - is something that fits within Google's DNA. 

Google's a technology company. Technology that aids the connection of people and content, sure. So adsense, yes. Platforms for games (which Lively or Google Earth, etc), sure, I'll buy that too. Game portal? Quite possibly. 

I could see them trying to the shoes of either flash-based game portals (newgrounds, kongregate) or traditional multiformat casual game portals like Real's or MSN's (and maybe supplanting the manual merchadising with an algorithm-driven one - not unlike what happened with Search). I could even see them doing a algo-driven/technology-driven version of what Oberon does - a whitelabel games portal service.

But none of these requires that they retain control over IP, fund content development, etc. So I don't think Publisher is in their future list of roles. 

It's also worth considering that there are parallels in their other businesses: Acquired Blogger and aggregate advertising realestate there, but haven't felt the need to acquire BoingBoing or Kotaku, etc. Acquired YouTube, but aren't producing video programming nor acquiring the Coke'n'Mentos guys. 

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Buying Valve solves both problems, no?

Games: YES!
Distribution: YES!

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