Venerable Leaderboards and Achievements Service OpenFeint to Shut Down in December

Venerable Leaderboards and Achievements Service OpenFeint to Shut Down in December

Nov 21, 2012

One of the biggest names of the early days of touchscreen mobile gaming is about to finally fade away: parent company GREE is shutting down OpenFeint, effective in December.

OpenFeint may not be as fondly remembered on Android as it is on iOS. It was the first real service to provide leaderboards and achievements, a much-desired feature. However, the platform failed to expand upon that core functionality once Game Center kicked in and became ubiquitous; while features like cloud saves were implemented by OpenFeint (and seen in games like INC which provided cross-platform saves) they never took off with developers or the public. However, the service was still purchased by GREE, and has been languishing recently as it transitions in to the GREE Platform.

However, Android has not seen the same kind of love for OpenFeint, though the service may have been one of the biggest to actually operate on the platform. But with OpenFeint going away, there’s not a comparable standard on Android that compares. GREE are pushing their service as an OpenFeint replacement, but many developers, already miffed by the fact that OpenFeint has been shut down, are loath to toss their support to GREE. Swarm, a service offering many of the same features as OpenFeint that is Android-exclusive, is making a push to be the next service in line. That other alternatives like Scoreloop are floundering or otherwise non-notable leaves these two pretty much as the only competitors in the battlefield.

This would be an opportunity for Google to launch their own kind of standardized service, but the problem would be adoption, as considering how slow rollouts of new Android versions are, it could take several years before such a service became ubiquitous if implemented as an OS-wide feature. Otherwise, it’d have to be implemented as a third-party plugin much like these other services are.

The lack of a good service on Android has turned away developers like Terry Cavanagh who wanted to release Super Hexagon but didn’t find a good equivalent service to Game Center on Android. The title is now basically in limbo as he ports the title to C++, and as he waits to hire a coder to port the game to Android, instead of releasing the game compiled in Adobe AIR.

While the service may have been a redundancy in its final days, and extremely clunky on Android, as someone who’s been covering mobile games since early 2009, I remember that OpenFeint was a huge deal, and it should not be forgotten because it served an important role in the history of mobile gaming.

Riptide Review

Riptide Review

Oct 4, 2012

Warning: Riptide induces adrenaline. Ask a doctor before engaging.

I am not exaggerating. It packs in jet skis, water, superb graphics and realistic physics with good old-fashioned arcade racing and comes out with an exciting, white-knuckled game that makes me struggle to remember that I am not physically spraying white foam in my wake.

I thought the developer put in a good amount of time into gameplay. I mean, how many ways can one cut a racing game? Well, Vector started by giving me three game modes: Championship, Race and Hot Play. I found that Hot Play was perfect for training runs, as I raced against myself. It gave me an opportunity to check my lap times and to see which jet skis handled the best. The Race mode gave me the opportunity to race against the virtual foes. I found the controls easy, as motion input translated to movement in the game.

With multiple machines and scenes to unlock, there was plenty of stuff to explore, and a continual excuse to race more. With OpenFeint compatibility, achievements can be shared online for bragging rights, and this is a feature I really, really liked. Different machines had different capabilities and ratings; some accelerated better, while some had better handling and/or speed. I found it to be a reassuring touch of reality.

Nestled in the Help & Options area were the Settings and How To Play teasers. The former allowed me to adjust graphics, audio and control sensitivity. The latter gave me tips with regards to how to control my machine, access boosts and stunts.

To make Riptide even more attractive, Vector Unit had the foresight to make it compatible with game controllers. Thus, I could enhance my experience with my DLNA- enabled device and literally go big.

All in all, I found Riptide an exciting foray into a familiar genre. For a racing game that is a cut above the norm, I suggest giving it a spin.

The Hills Are Greener: Why Can’t We Be Friends?

The Hills Are Greener: Why Can’t We Be Friends?

Sep 19, 2011

It’s funny to think that while iOS and Android are these seeming rivals in the mobile market, there are developers out there asking why the two platforms can’t just make up and get along already? And by getting along, I mean in the most fun way possible – playing games with each other! There’s an uptick in the number of titles that are supporting play between their iOS and Android versions.

Recently-released Muffin Knight features cross-platform multiplayer that works perfectly between the disparate operating systems; one person just creates a server, and the other player can easily discover it and join. There are no compatibility issues, everything just works as it should. It’s a wonderful and fun experience. Star Legends, the MMO from Spacetime Studios, takes cross-platform play to a whole new extreme: by logging into the same account, the same character can be used, no matter what platform is used to log in. This makes Star Legends the first game I’ve played that can be played on all 4 of my primary mobile devices: my iPad, my iPod touch, my Android phone, and my Android tablet that I have access to. I can also play with people from around the world, and it doesn’t matter what platform they are on. It just works. This game is also why I harp on cloud-based saving for developers over on iOS, especially; if this game can let me carry my progress between different operating systems, why can’t I track my physics puzzler progress between platforms?

However, Apple may be one of the biggest stumbling blocks to the iOS and Android multiplayer compatibility lovefest. In particular, Game Center may be the biggest stumbling block, because it is exclusive to iOS. Muffin Knight, one of the aforementioned cross-platform games, will support online multiplayer through Game Center, excluding Android players from the fun. Game Center is sort of a double-edged sword for developers; for users, it’s the most intuitive experience, but it also locks games into that OS. OpenFeint does exist with cross-platform tools to make this a reality, but developers rarely ever integrate any Feint features beyond just standard leaderboards and achievements. At least one developer has intoned to me privately that this is because many OpenFeint features lack documentation for proper implementation.

The lack of quality cross-platform tools may be what ultimately dooms the hope of cross-platform multiplayer; either developers will be forced to develop their own tools for matchmaking, or be locked in to one platform, limiting the audience of their game. As more developers embark on the quest of cross-platform play, it will be interesting to see if new tools come out for developers to take advantage of the unique opportunities cross-platform play can provide them and their users.

Report: PopCap to be Acquired For $1 Billion

Report: PopCap to be Acquired For $1 Billion

Jun 23, 2011

Big news from the world of mergers and acquisitions; according to TechCrunch, PopCap is being bought for a $1 billion USD; that’s billion with a B. It is not known who is buying them yet, making this the tech industry’s equivalent of a “mystery team” that wanted to sign professional baseball player Cliff Lee this past winter. Hopefully, the rumors of an unknown suitor turn out to be true in this case as they were in that case.

This number sounds large when considered that their revenue is only in the $100-$150 million range, according to TechCrunch, who broke the story. However, considering that OpenFeint was purchased by GREE for $100 million when their revenues were only in the six figures, this is almost a bargain. As well, PopCap has a range of wildly popular intellectual properties; consider the popularity of Peggle and Plants vs. Zombies, then consider that they also make what is likely the most popular match-3 game, Bejeweled. They also release for many, many platforms – Peggle and Plants vs. Zombies, for example, are available on PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Nintendo DS. So PopCap make games that are popular, and they have the ability to release them on a wide variety of platforms. It makes sense that they would be a popular acquisition target.

The question with PopCap’s acquisition is twofold – first, who is actually acquiring them? Secondly, what would the purpose of doing this be? Zynga is apparently out of the running, as the price tag was too high. EA could be a possibility, though their total valuation is only $7.4 billion dollars. Apple has the money to do so, but buying a game developer doesn’t seem like their style. One likely possibility might actually be Microsoft. Microsoft’s strength with Windows Phone 7 has been with gaming, in particular. Buying PopCap would only strengthen Microsoft’s gaming selection on mobile devices, along with being a potential boon for Games for Windows. There is also the possibility that games could come to Microsoft’s platforms like the Xbox 360 quicker than they have before.

Of course, if a large third party company bought PopCap, and it was one that had a vested interest in a singular platform, then would Android and other versions of PopCap games disappear? Microsoft has released apps for other platforms, but there’s a big difference between an app like PhotoSynth popping up on non-Microsoft platforms and releasing the latest PopCap addiction for other platforms. We’ll likely find out soon who the mystery suitor for PopCap is, and who knows; it could be a real surprise. Or perhaps an Asian company that wants to make a global splash the way that GREE and DeNA have with their acquisitions of OpenFeint and ngmoco, respectively.

Source: TechCrunch

OpenFeint Announces GameFeed

OpenFeint Announces GameFeed

Jun 8, 2011

While OS manufacturers make moves to centralize their social gaming services, with Apple increasing the feature set of Game Center, and RIM purchasing Scoreloop recently, OpenFeint is continuing to try to find ways to survive and remain relevant. OpenFeint’s goal has been to stress cross-platform compatibility as part of their business model; this is evident both when I spoke to CEO Jason Citron on The Portable Podcast about OpenFeint, and looking at their lineup of features. OpenFeint has focused on filling in the gaps between platforms, and to augment services like Game Center on iOS. Their newest feature is GameFeed, which is a news feed of OpenFeint games, no matter what platform they are being played on, that users can track and follow. As users’ friends complete challenges, unlock achievements, and set new high scores, users can keep track of this through GameFeed, and can use this as motivation to play the games their friends play more frequently. As well, this serves as a discovery service for new games as their friends start playing them as well. GameFeed will also suggest new friends to OpenFeint users, and suggest new games for them.

Jason Citron, CEO of OpenFeint says that “We believe mobile games should connect people, whether they’re living in distant corners of the planet or using completely different mobile operating systems. GameFeed connects people by taking a simple act, like finishing a level or posting a high score, and turning it into a meaningful, cross platform shared experience. GameFeed will help form and strengthen relationships on the network – connecting Android and iOS gamers in ways that make playing games far more engaging.” OpenFeint claims that with just one line of code, games can become enabled for GameFeed. The service is currently in private beta to developers, and will launch later this year.

Froggy Jump Leapfrogs On To Android

Froggy Jump Leapfrogs On To Android

May 5, 2011

Invictus Games’ iOS endless jumper game Froggy Jump has been released for Android. In this game, the player controls a frog that jumps upward and onward , slipping the surly bonds of earth and flying into space, by way of conveniently placed platforms. The game is similar to its iOS counterpart, featuring identical gameplay, and crossplatform leaderboards via OpenFeint. As well, there’s a daily word game that can earn players gems that are used to unlock new content by collecting letters strewn throughout the game’s levels. The game is freemium, where gems can be bought to purchase in-game items. These are not purchased through Android Market’s built-in in-app purchases, but through direct to carrier billing through a service called Zong. However, the game lets you unlock a theme called Infernal for free by reaching a height of 50,000. Players who reach the incredible heights of the alien planets will have them named after them by Invictus in the next update of the game. Invictus warns that “extreme addiction is inevitable!” – the game is available for free for users who wish to risk Invictus’ warning. Check out a trailer below, and click this link to download the game.

The Hills Are Greener: A Game Center That Android Can Call Its Own?

The Hills Are Greener: A Game Center That Android Can Call Its Own?

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.

OpenFeint Giving Thanks With 8 New Titles

OpenFeint Giving Thanks With 8 New Titles

Nov 23, 2010

Popular social gaming platform OpenFeint has its plate full with things to be thankful for this holiday season. In just a short span of 2 months on Android OpenFeint support has resulted in 8 million game downloads across 1.6 million Android devices (that’s a lot of gravy). With users in 176 countries on over 143 different devices their global success shows just how popular social gaming on Android has become. OpenFeint’s Android debut was a strong one consisting of only a few popular titles. Since then they have amassed an Android gaming catalog of over 100 games and counting.

OpenFeint Adds More Games

OpenFeint Adds More Games

Nov 11, 2010

Popular social gaming platform OpenFeint is quickly populating Android games and shows no sign of stopping. It was just over a month ago that OpenFeint came to us bearing gifts like “Fruit Ninja” and “MiniSquadron” and already they have amassed around 80 Android titles. You can now add another 12 to that list with the releases of:

Fruit Ninja For Android

Fruit Ninja For Android

Sep 20, 2010

“It slices!” “It dices!” And for one easy payment of 99 cents, you too can own this “fabricator of fruit fury,” this “slicing sultan of strawberries,” this reigning “walloper of watermelons.” So, what are you waiting for?! Click on over to your local Android Market and “Buy one today!”

Did you like my classic Ronald Popeil impersonation? No? Oh well, I tried. In case you haven’t heard, the very addicting & highly popular iOS game Fruit Ninja has sliced its way onto the Android platform. At only $.99, this ginsu game is a steel (get it? steel?).

Apparently the guys over at Halfbrick have found a long lost ninja scroll that clearly states “All ninjas hate fruit!” and Fruit Ninja is what happens when someone tauntingly tosses fruit in front of one. Very fun and very addicting, this game results in endless hours of unproductivity.

OpenFeint Launches for Android – Lots of Great Games Announced

OpenFeint Launches for Android – Lots of Great Games Announced

Sep 15, 2010

OpenFeint announced today that their social gaming network SDK has been released for Android developers. They have also announced some heavy hitting iPhone games that have been ported to Android and will be out this month. In addition, they will be working with game developers to help promote the best games that utilize their SDK both to consumers and to carriers.

OpenFeint is the leader in social gaming networks for the iOS platform with over 28 million users. They hope to bring this kind of success to the Android platform by releasing their SDK at the same time as a slew of iOS games that support OpenFeint are ported over. Time will tell if it will take off on Android like it has on iOS, but the launch is really strong.

Some of the games we can expect to see on Android in the next month include MiniSquadron, Face Fighter Gold, Fruit Ninja, and Solipskier. All fantastic games that will be great to have on Android.

One of the more significant parts of the announcement is the game promotional aspect. OpenFeint will be working with carriers to feature games on carrier decks. This will help increase exposure for some smaller, yet really great games that the carriers normally wouldn’t be interested in dealing with.

Hit the jump for the full press release with details and a full list of games we can expect over the next month.