Google's new social network, Google+, took a big step forward Thursday by adding games to its site.
Google+, which is less than two months old, said Thursday afternoon that it's beginning to roll out a games button at the top of users' streams. The highly popular Angry Birds is one of the first games to be added to the site, along with Zombie Lane and Edgeworld.
Vic Gundotra, senior vice president of engineering at Google, announced the gaming news in a blog post. Gundotra noted that users will be able to click on a Games button that will be placed above their streams. The button takes them to a games page, allowing games to be available when users want them and hidden when they don't.
"The experiences we have together are just as important to our relationships," wrote Gundotra. "We want to make playing games online just as fun, and just as meaningful, as playing in real life. That means giving you control over when you see games, how you play them and with whom you share your experiences."
And that's going to be an important feature for Google+, which has grown quickly since its launch, according to Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research.
"Games are a real complement to social networking," said Gottheil. "When people play games with other people, it is often more about being with other people than about the game itself. It actually fits the Circles model well. If you're a serious gamer, you want to talk about the game with other players, but that bores the rest of us silly."
And Gottheil also noted that adding games to the site, while not surprising, is a smart move. If people are able to access great games and engage with Circles of gamers, it easily could draw more users to the fledgling network.
"I think Facebook has to be nervous about Google+ taking away some of its time-on-site more than taking away users," he added.
In today's blog post, Gundotra noted that users will find their high scores, other games that friends have played recently and invitations to play with friends and family. And he also noted that Circles will only be updated with a user's scores and game play if they are interested in gaming, as well.
"Today we're starting to gradually roll out games in Google+," wrote Gundotra. "We look forward to making them fully available to everyone in Google+ soon. When you see a Games page in your account, please give games a try and send us feedback. Look for the "send feedback" button in the bottom right-hand corner of any page in Google+."
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.