Google has entered almost every field that exists online, so it’s not surprising to hear that they’re working on solutions for game development. What may be surprising is how much investment they’ve been making. In June of last year, Google showed up as a committed player when they invested a full $100 million in Zynga, one of the leading internet game developers, especially when it comes to social networking games. Additionally, Google has being hiring team members for “special project” teams that seem to be oriented around games.
Most recently, we received word that Microsoft’s Johnny Chung Lee, one of the lead developers on the Xbox Kinect project (formerly, and much more appealingly, titled Project Natal). Lee has been vague on the details, but it’s fairly clear from his background what the general subject he’ll be working on is.
What’s Google’s motivation? In addition to the highly lucrative opportunities of that field overall, Google has a vested interest in browser-based games for several reasons. Most obviously, Google’s focus on the world of mobile applications gives them plenty of incentives to enable games and game development. They currently lag behind iOS in available apps by a margin of only a few tens of thousands of apps; more availability here will truly help in the mobile war.
However, Google also has at least two upcoming projects that will receive an infusion from web-based games. First, Google is expected to try their hand at social networks again sometime within the next 18 months. The network, rumored as being titled “Google+1,” will be far more complete than the micro-blogging failure that was Buzz, and gaming will be a big part of that. Second, Google is unleashing their Chrome OS later this year (they already have pilot prototypes out), and as the world’s first “browser only” operating system, web-based games are essential.