UPDATE 4:09 PM: Aurora Feint, creators of OpenFeint, have taken a similar stance as ngmoco. From a just released statement:
“OpenFeint X is currently built on top of OpenFeint and in the future it will also sit on Apple’s Game Center social graph, achievements and leaderboards so developers and gamers don’t miss a step,” said CEO Jason Citron. “Apple is a key partner and we are delighted that they have validated the first half of the OpenFeint vision and we can now fulfill the second half: OpenFeint X and Virtual Goods based Social Games. Our developers can be 100 percent assured that we will continue to invest in OpenFeint so our 1500 live games, 2000 games in development and 19M players have a flawless experience with OpenFeint and Game Center.”
Like ngmoco, Aurora Feint will adapt their current social infrastructure to better manage microtransactions and virtual goods.
ORIGINAL STORY: Apple announced plans today to roll out their own system-wide social gaming network across iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad called Game Center. Several of these networks already exist -- i.e. Plus+, OpenFeint -- each vying for the attention of developers and consumers, hoping their network catches on and becomes the de facto platform standard. Instead, it looks like Apple will take that spot.
What does this mean for companies like Plus+ developer ngmoco (aka the studio behind your latest obsession, We Rule)? Besides games, ngmoco's been focused on pushing Plus+, one of the many social gaming networks that's popped up in a number of games, attempting to tie them together.
ngmoco chief publishing officer Simon Jeffery is actually applauding Apple's efforts to unify their platform.
"Game Center is an exciting first-party innovation for the ecosystem that reinforces much of what plus+ has already accomplished and proven out early in its life cycle," said Jeffery in a n e-mail statement released to me this afternoon. "It will effectively clean up the social space on the iPhone, which has become confusing and cluttered to consumers due to the number of social gaming networks vying for attention. ngmoco has anticipated this move from Apple for some time, and is happy to see a cleaner developer and consumer experience on the horizon.”
Plus+ incorporates achievements and friends lists across all of ngmoco's games and other titles. Game Center will do this, too. ngmoco was one of the first companies to try and bring the vision of Xbox Live, PlayStation Network and other unifying online services to Apple's expanding games platforms.
Here's why Jeffery doesn't foresee Game Center tearing down what they've accomplished so far.
“As we demonstrated at the recent GDC [Game Developers Conference], plus+ took a strategic shift in direction a few months ago toward being a service, and less about being a set of social gaming features," he explained, while noting the recent hire of MySpace exec. Jason Oberfest. "plus+ is all about empowering monetization and discoverability mechanisms for the development community, and we have clearly demonstrated with games like We Rule that these mechanisms work."
ngmoco's Plus+ might have started as Xbox Live for iPhone, but that's not the case anymore, a vision no doubt accelerated by today's news and understanding that Apple will likely dominate the space.
iPhone OS 4.0, which includes the addition of Game Center, is scheduled for a summer launch. A private beta is now available for developers. The iPad version of the OS is coming in the fall.