Fueling the buzz that Google is pursuing social-networking opportunities, reports on Wednesday say the search giant has bought online entertainment company Slide.
Google has acquired the company for US$182 million, according to TechCrunch, which first reported the deal. The New York Times, citing unnamed sources, put the value at $228 million.
Slide develops virtual community applications used on social-networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. They include SuperPoke Pets, Top Fish, SPP Range and SuperPocus Academy of Magic. The company was founded by Max Levchin, a co-founder of PayPal.
According to its website, Slide's goal is to build communities that allow virtual goods to be created and distributed. It cites forecasts predicting that the market for virtual goods will reach $1.6 billion in the U.S. this year.
Neither Slide nor Google replied to requests for comment about the deal.
If an acquisition does happen -- TechCrunch says an announcement is planned for Friday -- it would be part of a larger effort by Google to break into the social-networking market.
Reports have suggested that Google also invested in Zynga, the company responsible for the popular Farmville Facebook game. Further reports say Google has been in talks with other gaming companies, with an eye toward launching a kind of social-networking platform centered on games.
Other Google attempts to get into social networking haven't taken off. Google Buzz, which lets Gmail users share status updates, photos and videos, didn't get off to a promising start. Its launch was met with an uproar when users discovered that their lists of followers, which were automatically generated based on people they e-mail, were publicly shared with others. Google quickly changed its privacy policies.
Orkut, Google's version of Facebook, is popular in some areas of the world, notably Brazil, but hasn't been broadly successful at the level of MySpace and Facebook.
And on Wednesday Google said it was ceasing development of Google Wave, another social-networking-type application.
Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com