Google, Facebook face-off in social games

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SummaryFacebook is not the only game in town anymore.

Mark Zuckerberg-led Facebook is not the only game in town anymore.

The world's largest Internet social network moved on Thursday to shore up support with game developers such as Zynga, who provide one of Facebook's biggest draws, on the same day that Google Inc introduced games on its recently-launched social network.

* Facebook to revamp key social games features

* 16 games initially available on Google+

* Google will roll out game feature to users gradually

With the two Web giants competing to attract users to their respective online services, the dueling social gaming announcements underscored what could emerge as a key battleground between the two companies.

It turns out that people like to play games, and it's core to the social networking use case, said Jeremy Liew, a partner at venture capital firm Lightspeed Venture Partners. Liew, who has invested in social game companies including Playdom, which was acquired by the Walt Disney Co last year, was commenting on Google's games announcement.

On Thursday, Google said it would offer 16 games from third party developers on Google+, including Zynga Poker and the popular Angry Birds game. Google, which previously made an unspecified investment in Zynga, said it will roll out games gradually on Google+, and will make the game feature available to everyone soon.

Facebook, which is hosting 100 game developers at an event at its Palo Alto. California headquarters on Thursday evening, announced a handful of new features to improve the gaming experience on its website, as well as a new policy loosening restrictions on how developers can market their games on the social network.

The changes will expand the types of notifications that Facebook users see when their friends are playing games on the website, rolling back restrictions made last year that provoked grumbles among some game developers.

Social games, such as Zynga's Farmville, are some of the most popular activities on Facebook. More than 200 million users play games on Facebook every month, and the company takes a 30 percent cut of the sale of virtual goods that are bought by users as part of the game experience.

Our games ecosystem has continued to grow. But there's no question that we want to grow it faster in a more high quality way for our users and developers, Facebook head of games Sean Ryan told Reuters in an interview.

Google launched its social networking site in June, signing up more than 10 million users in the first two

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