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Google is reportedly partnering with FarmVille and Mafia Wars game-maker Zynga to launch a hub where you’ll be able to play social online games. The source of the rumor is the tech blog TechCrunch, which claims to have confirmed the story with multiple sources. The search giant has allegedly invested between 100 and 200 million dollars in the massive game company, which already sits with Google () in the small club of web companies that are valued at much more than $1 billion.
Details on the new portal (which TechCrunch calls “Google Games”) are few and far between. The best hints you’ll find are in a job posting for position at the top of Google’s Games division. The “Project Management Leader, Games” would develop a “games commerce product strategy” through both partnerships and in-house projects of one kind or another. The job posting also specifies that both web-based and mobile games are part of the plan.
We’ve contacted both Google and Zynga seeking more details about the deal and what to expect from both companies in the future.
The Lingering Question: What’s In It For You?
MySpace (), Facebook () and Yahoo () also host Zynga games, so any web game player is going to wonder what Google will offer that they can’t already get at the company’s three big competitors. We don’t know yet and to be frank, Google is very late to the game — excuse the pun!
The term “games commerce product” would seem to imply that Google is considering making money not just through ads but through microtransactions — small purchases of virtual goods made within games. Those are common in today’s web-based games, Zynga’s titles included.
Google’s partnership with Zynga might involve Google Checkout, a PayPal-like online transactions tool that was launched four years ago. You might recall that Zynga and Facebook announced a similar deal that expanded the use of Facebook’s own microtransactions system, called Facebook Credits.
Rumor has it that Google is also planning another user profiles push to challenge Facebook, and popular online games could help drive adoption of that network, so it’s easy to see why Google is interested in entering this space. However, none of this explains why we’ll want to play at Google’s portal instead of Facebook’s.
We’ll just have to wait to find out how Google plans to woo online gamers. Do you have any guesses? Let us know in the comments.