Forbes.com's Chris Morris asks the question and tries to connect the dots between Google's on-the-record interest in games as an advertising delivery medium, and things like "Google Lively," which has few users but may go after Second Life's lunch at some point.
Speculating on Google's intentions is a parlor game among those who watch the company, or even live near it. It's easy to play because of the company's deep pockets and how everyone views every move it makes as one chess move in an ultra-long term plan for world domination.
But the conjecture here sounds like what one guy would do if he had access to Google's toolkit, not anything to which the company has actually tipped its hand. For example:
• Google Earth being used in a flight simulator. Google Maps being used in an action game.
• Rapid growth of digital delivery, and the obvious fact Google would be better positioned for Steam-style sales rather than brick-and-mortar retail.
• Willingness of certain demographics to accept in-game advertisements.
All that said, it doesn't pay to be a luddite in this economy. If any company were to set out to produce an AAA title, distributed for free, is entirely supported by advertisements, and is something core gamers want, Google would be the one to pull it off. That doesn't mean it is, will, or is even planning to. But it's fun to think sometimes.
Will Google Play Games? [Forbes.com]