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Apple Announces 'Game Center' Social Network For iPhone
Apple Announces 'Game Center' Social Network For iPhone
April 8, 2010 | By Kris Graft, Christian Nutt

April 8, 2010 | By Kris Graft, Christian Nutt
More: Console/PC

Apple is increasing its focus on gamers with a new social gaming network for iPhone and iPod Touch that draws cues from console gaming counterparts, the company revealed during a Thursday media event at its Cupertino, CA headquarters.

Apple's SVP of iPhone software Scott Forstall said that the company will introduce later this year "Game Center," a social gaming network that includes automatic matchmaking, achievements, leaderboards and other features.

"A lot of developers have come to us and said there are a bunch of different social networks out there," Forstall said at the Gamasutra-attended event. "When you want a social network, the most important thing is that our friends are on it [and it's] built-in... that everyone can unify and be on the same social network."

Forstall said that Game Center is more about adding value to its mobile products, not creating a new business model. "There's no money to be gained or no competitive advantage to be gained from having your own social gaming network," he said.

Forstall added, "One of our goals with [Game Center] is to help the viral spread... You can see your friends, your friends can challenge you to a game you don't have and you can immediately download that [game]... And we added gifting in this OS so you can give it to someone you love."

As for the inclusion of achievements, a potential big attraction for gamers, he said "we're still looking at different options" in how to handle the feature.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs was on hand as well, and said that Game Center won't necessarily supplant other independently-created social platforms such as OpenFeint.

Forstall did not reveal an exact release date for Game Center, only saying there will be a "preview" in OS4 which will be available this summer on iPhone and iPod Touch. OS4 will hit iPad this fall, while the SDK for OS4 is out today.

The exec presented Game Center in the context of iPhone and iPod Touch games, but with OS4 hitting iPod, iPod Touch and iPad later this year, Game Center is destined to go across all devices. Forstall said that there are over 50,000 game and entertainment titles on App Store currently.

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Sergio Bustamante II
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Apple seems to continue to be taking the right steps forward in establishing the iPhone as a credible platform for gamers. Adding in the social aspect will certainly boost revenue and excitement amongst developers and players alike.

Sean Currie
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It's an interesting addition, and shows that the old guard at Apple has finally been overtaken by those who take gaming seriously.

Personally, and I'm curious if anyone else reacted this way, the announcement just made me want a WinMo 7 phone more. Apple does have a tremendous quantity of games, but I'd be generous in saying the quality is somewhat lacking on most of them. If Microsoft takes the gaming elements of Mobile 7 seriously Apple's Game Center runs the risk of being outshone. Especially considering that Live is already on the PC and in the living room.

Then again, maybe the reverse will happen and a cohesive gaming experience on the iPhone will convince more developers to take some risks outside of the puzzle/casual audience the iPhone has. It'll be interesting to watch.

(Still hate those virtual buttons though - how about an iPhone model with real buttons ala the PSPgo. Pretty please?)