Like any gaming platform, the sustained success of the platform itself is driven by its users. Social gaming networks allow for increased user interaction and, in many ways, a more engaging gaming experience. On the Xbox, you have the Xbox Live service; the Playstation 3 features the Playstation Network; and the Wii features WiiConnect24. So what types of social gaming services does the iPhone support? Come to find out, an increasing number of them. Here’s a look at the top three.
The company who dazzled your iPhone with hits like Rolando, Rolando 2, Topple (my favorite) and others, recently introduced their service called Plus+. This service allows users to challenge your friends on the network (or via Twitter) and track awards and top scores on leaderboards.
For more information, check out Darrell’s review of the service. From what I have been able to find, the Plus+ service is not open to outside developers at this time.
If you are a fan of Aurora Feint, you’ve likely heard of their social gaming service called OpenFeint. This service allows users to interact similarly to Plus+, but is based around a concept they call “social discovery.” Some unique features to OpenFeint-enabled games include chat rooms for more open social discussion, the ability to see what other OpenFeint-enabled games your friends might be playing (and buy them from within the app), and the largest user base of games supporting its service, with over 100 games based on OpenFeint.
For developers, if you’re interested in integrating OpenFeint into your next masterpiece, its SDK is free to try and is available here. The size of your user base, or if an app is paid vs. free, determines the cost per user for developers to integrate OpenFeint’s service into their applications.
Another service to enter this market is Scoreloop, a company and service formed by previous Apple and NeXT employees. Scoreloop is based around the simple objectives of global high scores and player challenges. Much like the other services, it also features integration with social networks such as Facebook, and allows for custom avatars and personalized profiles for tracking records and high scores. Scoreloop’s “economy” is based around coins, which helps to provide a unified scoring system between games, allowing users to maintain their collection of coins and gain or lose more via challenging other players.
While perhaps not as fully featured as other services, like OpenFeint, Scoreloop is, however, the first to announce that it is working to release its service on other devices, such as the Android platform. With a larger target market and a cheaper cost of entry for developers, Scoreloop could easily become more popular than OpenFeint (not to mention it’s user interface is more customizable to fit your application). For developers interested in Scoreloop, check out their free SDK here. Bug Landing, by the Scoreloop developers, is also a free application that features integration with this service.
Will one rise above the rest?
As Twitter became popular, we saw a plethora of competitors enter the market, from Plurk to Jaiku to Pownce. At the moment, a similar effect is starting to happen among these social networking services. Where on the console platform, each manufacturer has produced their own service, Apple has yet to bring any sort of unified service to its users. Since we all have an Apple ID for iTunes, Apple could easily integrate a beautiful solution so you can keep one central list of your gaming friends, awards and achievements.
Will Apple continue to stand by and allow multiple social gaming network services to evolve on the iPhone platform, or will they step in to offer their own service?