Aces Hangout is a new, in development product from the team at Hettema&Bergsten, which you may remember as the makers of the Twitter trend tracker, StrawberryJ.am. The online application brings a unique twist to online gambling, thanks to its integration with Google+’s multi-person video chat feature, Google+ Hangouts.
Unlike other video poker games, where users often play as online avatars, Aces Hangout feels more like a real world card game. You can watch live video feeds of the other players in Google+’s Hangouts, allowing to you to guess at who’s bluffing and who’s not – something that’s key to the offline poker experience.
The project is still being built, so you can’t try a full-on multi-person chat session right now, unfortunately. There is, however, a one-on-one test version using the Google+ Hangouts API developer preview, which you can monkey around with by signing up here (click the +1 button and then fill in the form). The problem with this “testing mode,” though, is that it requires the company to manually add users to their project in order for the system to allow more testers. The team says it’s willing to do so, but there’s a good chance they’ll get overwhelmed by the traffic sent, which would delay your invitiation.
So why bother even posting about the app, right? Well, there are a couple of reasons. One, this is definitely one of the more clever and appealing use cases for Google+’s Hangouts, which is, to date, still the main selling point for Google’s new social network.
The second reason is a bit more complex. According to Hettema&Bergsten, the only thing holding them back from launching is the fact that the Google+ Hangouts API isn’t ready yet. In fact, the company says it has reached out directly to the Google+ API team to try to get more information, and hasn’t heard back. It’s precisely this sort of situation that highlights one of the problems with Google+ in general: Google built a a social networking product before it built the Google+ platform.
Given Google’s previous experience in social (Buzz, Wave, Knol, etc.), it’s not entirely surprising that it decided to wait to see how Google+ adoption went before building all the underpinnings. But it was the wrong course of action. If the APIs were functional, Google wouldn’t have to be manufacturing user adoption with carefully timed feature releases (YouTube integration! Google Apps support! Better buttons! Extensions! Google Reader! Trends! Chat! Blogger integration! Etc.) It could have allowed the developer community to create dozens upon dozens of interesting apps, perhaps even some outside of Google’s own thoughts as to “what users want,” that would have led to more organic adoption.
Poker playing via Google+ Hangouts is just one example of that.
Anyway, in case you’re wondering, Aces Hangout is backed by the large, publicly-traded online gambling company Bwin.Party, which specializes in sports betting. One of their biggest and most popular properties is Party Poker. That means the Hangouts game isn’t on shaky financial ground, at least.
You know, if they ever get to launch the darned thing.