At first glance, CityVille’s arrival on Google+ seems like good news for the social network. CityVille is Zynga’s most popular game on Facebook, and among the 18 titles currently on Google+ Games, it’s a standout alongside Angry Birds and Bejeweled Blitz.
But with CityVille, Google+ Games is no more exciting than it was last week. The game already launched on Facebook nine months ago, so unless you’ve got some grudge against Facebook and have been holding out all this time, CityVille+ doesn’t offer anything new.
Google may not realize this because it’s new to gaming, but it won’t get anywhere by pursuing Facebook’s leftovers. What it really needs–as any new gaming platform throughout history has needed–is a killer exclusive. Something that everyone wants, but no other platform has. The social network’s equivalent to Super Mario Bros., Halo or Uncharted. A system seller.
I have a feeling this game won’t come from Zynga, a publisher whose biggest innovations in social gaming are behind it, and whose main interest will continue to be in Facebook as long as that’s where the users are. For that matter, no major social game publisher is likely to create the killer exclusive that Google+ Games really needs.
But somewhere, there’s a developer with amazing ideas that could innovate social gaming in unforeseen ways. Maybe it’s an industry veteran-turned-indie game maker, or a small developer that lacks the resources to pursue its vision, or an up-and-coming studio like Mojang. In any case, Google needs to be on the hunt for this developer, and this idea, if the company is at all serious about gaming on Google+. The platform doesn’t need CityVille. It needs the next FarmVille–figuratively, of course.