Google acquires Toronto-based social gaming firm

Google shows no signs of stopping its social networking start-up shopping spree–it acquired social gaming service SocialDeck on Monday.

The acquisition was announced Monday via the SocialDeck blog. It is Google’s fifth acquisition in the past month.

SocialDeck is a social gaming company that makes games for various mobile platforms (including BlackBerry and iPhone) that are playable across multiple devices and social networks. For example, you can play a game on your iPhone and then switch over to Facebook on your computer and play with the same profile.

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Some of SocialDeck’s games include “Shake & Spell,” “Pet Hero MD,” and “Color Connect.”

The games have social-networking features as well, including a page that displays other friends currently playing the game, a leader board and statistics of friends’ gaming performance. Players can also post comments in a stream similar to instant messaging.

SocialDeck, which has workers in Toronto and San Francisco, received financing from the BlackBerry Partners Fund in early 2009.

“We were very impressed with the team’s talent as well as the technically advanced platform engaging mobile experiences they’ve built,” Google said in a statement. The team will work in partnership with Google staff in Waterloo, Ontario, Google said.

“We’re pleased to welcome them to Google, and we think they’ll be great contributors in partnership with the Google Waterloo team as we continue to innovate in the mobile space.”
Most of Google’s recent acquisitions have been related to social networking and games, fueling speculation that the company plans to release a new social-networking service, potentially centered on games, to compete with Facebook.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Google has been in talks with popular game developers to offer their products on “a new service it is building” (courtesy of WSJ’s “people familiar with the matter”). Perhaps the acquisition of SocialDeck shows the direction in which Google wants to go with its rumored new gaming service–games that work seamlessly across multiple platforms and devices, that is. The WSJ reports that the companies in talks include Playdom Inc., EA’s Playfish, and Zynga.

Google acquired Angstro, a company known for its product (a centralized address book that combines a user’s connections from social networks), just a few days prior to this latest acquisition. It previously acquired social games developer Slide, virtual currency maker Jambool, and visual shopping engine

At Google, SocialDeck workers will join those from Angstro, the fourth company acquired by Google in the past month, that built a product called Noteworthy News that delivers news about people and companies in a user’s professional network. Angstro said on Friday that Google had acquired it.

The real question is this: is Google about to roll out some funky new life-changing social network, or does it just want to own everything that’s that’s tangentially related to social networks?

With notes from Nancy Gohring, who covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service.


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