The developers of the many existing social game networks on iPhone and iPod Touch got a surprise during Apple's iPhone OS 4.0 unveiling yesterday: Apple's entering their territory. Apple announced Game Center, a cross-platform, cross-game service not unlike Xbox Live and PlayStation Network that incorporates achievements, leaderboards, matchmaking -- services that companies like ngmoco with Plus+ and Aurora Feint with OpenFent have been pushing themselves for months.
Apple is secretive about its reveals, even to its developers. OpenFeint found out about Apple's Game Center plans, effectively destroying the usefulness of many like services, with the rest of us.
"We were not aware of the [Apple Game Center] announcement but, like many in our space, we've been anticipating it for quite some time," said OpenFeint VP of marketing and developer relations Eros Resmini to me over e-mail yesterday. "We view it as a validation of what we've been working so hard to support: a fantastic mobile gaming experience."
Both OpenFeint and ngmoco have announced plans to move from attempting to become the standardized social gaming network across Apple devices to supplying developers with robust tools to better deliver virtual goods and microtransactions in their games, a new field for iPhone games.
"Things change quickly in a rapidly moving space like mobile gaming," said Resmini. "We're used to it. If you look at the gaming ecosystem as a whole it's clear that there are multiple ways to participate. Running a social graph tied to a network like OpenFeint is just one of them. Plugging into a social graph like we do with OpenFeint X, our hosted solution for running Facebook style games on mobile devices, is another one."
Despite the change of focus, Resmini isn't worried about the future of OpenFeint.
"We have more ideas than you can imagine," he promised.
Game Center won't launch until sometime this summer, when iPhone OS 4.0 is scheduled for release. It also won't hit iPad until later in the fall for unknown reasons. In the interim, Resmini promised it would continue to work with developers on supporting OpenFeint and transitioning to the future.
"We will continue to work with our developers to ensure that OpenFeint plays well with the new Apple ecosystem," concluded Resmini. "We'll also continue to focus on our premium services of OpenFeint X and hosted Multiplayer. Much more to come!"