Apr 11, 2011
What Game Center has done really well on iOS is bringing a more unified leaderboard experience. Since its introduction in iOS 4.1, it’s started to be the de facto social gaming service for Apple’s OS, providing leaderboards, achievements, and even matchmaking for online games. So, theoretically, should Google implement their own kind of service on Android to match what Game Center does? I don’t necessarily think that’s a smart option right now.
I don’t know if launching a unified service at this time would be good for the development economy around Android right now. The potential for growth on iOS for services like OpenFeint and Android has pretty much been stunted by Game Center. OpenFeint continues to introduce services outside of the standard leaderboard and achievement fare, like asynchronous multiplayer services provided by games like Kalimat, as well as OpenFeint PlayTime, although these features haven’t been widely adopted yet. OpenFeint is still regularly used by developers, especially as it provides Game Center implementation alongside OpenFeint’s features, but more and more games are eschewing their service and other similar ones, and going with direct Game Center implementation.
If an Android Game Center equivalent existed, would OpenFeint have any reason to continue to develop multiplatform tools? If Scoreloop didn’t have room to get a foothold in the Android social gaming market, we likely wouldn’t see things like the “Go Android” program to help spur on Android development. It seems counterintuitive, yes, to say that not having an official social gaming service is beneficial to gamers, but the advantage is that by allowing alternative services to propagate and grow, they can bring other benefits to the platform that an official service might not necessarily provide at this point.
As well, the question of implementation has to be considered as well – developers might not be able to get a deep system integration like with Game Center in part due to the fact that OS updates are pushed out in large part by the phone manufacturers, not by Google. If an official Android social gaming service had to be a major part of a firmware update, it could take years for it to propagate to most users. As well, unlike iOS where you could go out and buy a new device that would work with Game Center guaranteed, there would be plenty of Android phones sitting out there with incompatibility issues. Of course, the solution that would be accessible to the most Android users. would be to release an app for the service on the Android Market, that would then have an SDK that developers would then implement in their games – it likely wouldn’t be as clean an implementation as Game Center is on iOS, but it would be a solution. But getting back to the earlier problem, what would be the point? All Google would be doing would be shutting out developers from services like OpenFeint and Scoreloop who are interested in developing for their platform.
So, while the social gaming quagmire persists on Android, it’s ultimately good for the platform, even if it’s not the best situation for users right now. However, I feel that in the long-run, having gaming services promoting development on the OS will help spur along the gaming community until an official service would be feasible for the OS. So until then, Android gamers will have to rely on the wide variety of services that exist on the OS.