iGoogle gets video game makers in on the action

Google on Wednesday unveiled the latest addition to its iGoogle start page service: a collection of themes designed by video game publishers. The search giant has partnered with nine publishers to come up with a little under two dozen themes from recent games from EA's Spore to arcade classics like Galaga.

Like other themes produced through the iGoogle themes API, these will change throughout the day, including Easter eggs some developers have tucked away inside their designs. And unlike other gaming designs created by users, these can be used by anyone without stepping on copyrights and intellectual property.

A new iGoogle theme featuring Nintendo's Link from the Zelda series.

Marissa Mayer, Google's vice president of search products and user experience, announced the new set of themes at Obscura Digital in downtown San Francisco. She also hosted a panel of gaming personalities, including Capcom producer Yoshinori Ono, and Charles Huang, VP of business development and co-founder of Red Octane games, maker of the Guitar Hero franchise.

Among the topics discussed was how the Web had changed gaming development. The general answer was that game developers and publishers alike are getting a whole lot more feedback during the development process, in part from increasingly simpler ways to aggregate information from blogs and message boards, as well as public beta programs.

Huang also noted that user-generated content created inside of games has been on a sharp rise, as witnessed by the number of user designed tracks that have been created and downloaded in the latest Guitar Hero title, a number which now tops 10 million.

Notably missing from the announcement was any mention of iGoogle as a gaming platform itself. Mayer very quickly mentioned that there would be new things for OpenSocial developers, but that they were not being announced at this time. However, a handful of casual social-gaming services were announced as coming to iGoogle, including Chess.com, Zynga, and PlayFish.

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