6月，Google+上市，带来了创新的视频群聊功能Hangout。一周后，Facebook就宣布与微软（Microsoft）旗下的Skype合作，推出自己的视频聊天服务。上周，谷歌宣布将在Google+上引进《Zynga扑克》（Zynga Poker）和《愤怒的小鸟》（Angry Birds）等游戏。仅仅一天后，Facebook马上做出回应，对其游戏平台进行大幅改进，包括推出和Newsfeed类似的游戏更新实时播报功能并提高了游戏的分辨率。
在上周举行的一次活动中，负责Facebook游戏合作的主管肖恩•莱安对新竞争对手大放厥词。莱安表示：“谷歌模仿了我们的系统，当然，他们有权利这样做。我们只是需要做得更好。”莱安指的是两家公司从类似《虚拟农场》（Farmville）和《与朋友填字》（Words With Friends）等休闲在线游戏中获利的方式。玩家需要为游戏时间或游戏里的虚拟商品付费，社交网络公司则从销售额中提成。目前，据说Facebook从游戏开发商手中提成30%，而谷歌仅仅提成5%。
A little less than two months after Google launched its fledgling social network, Google+, Silicon Valley's latest rivalry is heating up.
Google+ (GOOG) launched in June with an innovative group video chat dubbed Hangout. One week later, Facebook announced a video chat feature of its own in cooperation with Microsoft's (MSFT) Skype. Last week, Google announced that games like Zynga Poker and Angry Birds would find a home on Google+. A day later, Facebook unveiled a slew of improvements to its games platform, including a newsfeed-like live ticker with game updates and higher-resolution gaming.
If it wasn't clear before, it is now: Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg is paying very close attention.
At an event last week, Facebook director of game partnerships Sean Ryan had some choice words for his new competitor. "Google has emulated aspects of our system, which is what they have the right to do," he said. "We just need to be better." He's referring to the way the companies make money from casual online games like Farmville and Words With Friends. Players pay for play time or virtual goods within the games, and the social networks take a cut of the sales. Currently, Facebook reportedly takes 30% from game developers, whereas Google takes just 5%.
The similarities between the two models have obviously ruffled some feathers. At the event, Facebook's Ryan argued that Google's gaming foray was like McDonald's (MCD) recent efforts to offer premium coffee, competing in the same space as Starbucks (SBUX). (That business went on to become huge for McDonald's...) "Google is at 5% because they don't have any users," he said dryly. Google declined to comment on the statements, but confirmed the percentage it planned to take from game makers.
There's good reason for the two technology giants to see games as a new front in their tussle for social users. The global virtual goods market -- arguably the largest revenue stream for casual games makers -- is expected to more than double to $20.3 billion by 2014 according to research and investment bank ThinkEquity. Jeremiah Owyang, a principal analyst for Altimeter Group, notes that it is also a way to reach a coveted demographic. "When we saw casual gaming growth, it was amazing to see that the most common gamer was a middle-aged woman in the Midwest, and there's a lot of advertising dollars associated with that," he says.
But according to Owyang, both services have their work cut out for them. Google+ is off to a good start, but he doesn't think a compelling reason exists yet for mainstream users to switch over from Facebook. That's why the company announced it was going after casual games, to attract new users. Meanwhile, Facebook needs to be less reactive to Google+'s announcements and become more aggressive, he says.
With an estimated 25 million registered users, Google+ has a long way to go before it catches up to Facebook's 750 million users -- not to mention the 1 million monthly active users already playing games there. What's clear is that both companies are likely to continue watching each other's moves closely.