Clash of the iPhone social gaming Titans: Game Center versus OpenFeint

The sanctioned favourite against the experienced contender

Clash of the iPhone social gaming Titans: Game Center versus OpenFeint

The rise social gaming platforms is a relatively new development in portable gaming, which makes both OpenFeint and Game Center fairly groundbreaking.

iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad have been incubators of social gaming network innovations, surpassing Nintendo DS and PSP. OpenFeint has introduced a wealth of ideas to the devices, whereas Game Center presents a unified push from platform-holder Apple.

They're two vastly different services aiming for the same goal: to dominate portable gaming. As Apple makes its case for uniformity with Game Center, OpenFeint survives on its impressive list of features.

At the end of the day, can both networks succeed? More importantly, is one better prepared to succeed?

Interface design, management of achievements, social networking elements, and communication features - these are the critical components that will determine success and we've compared Game Center against OpenFeint to determine which offers the best experience and has the greatest chance to push portable gaming forward.


Style counts for a lot when discussing interfaces, and that's ever more relevant when weighing the merits of Game Center against OpenFeint.

The cleaner, simpler look of Game Center comes as a result of its lack of features. Conversely. OpenFeint has an overwhelming number of layered menus that reflect a wealth of features.

Both services are easy to navigate, though, thanks to straightforward menu labels. The key difference, however, is in style.

Game Center is downright unattractive, with its dartboard-like background and odd fonts. It's as though Apple thinks digital games are synonymous with pub and boardgames like darts and chess, opting for that aesthetic instead of a look allied more closely with video games.

To be fair, perhaps this style is an intentional move to attract non-traditional gamers who might be put off by a service that looks too hardcore.

It's also worth mentioning that Game Center only runs in portrait mode, whereas OpenFeint supports both portrait and landscape mode games.

OpenFeint unlocks the achievement for +25 points:
Game Center just isn't as attractive as OpenFeint in terms of visual style. That isn't to say that OpenFeint is perfect, but until Apple changes the look of Game Center, OpenFeint sits on top.


While both networks offer achievements, only Apple's network is official.

There aren't set achievement totals that must be met when supporting Game Center, ensuring that games offer 500 or 1,000 points in total, for example. That inconsistency is a little annoying, although nowhere near as confusing as the laissez faire approach of OpenFeint.

The lack of requirements regarding achievements has made OpenFeint a veritable mess. Some games provide paltry achievements totalling less than 100 points, whereas others run over 1,000.

Even worse, several OpenFeint-enabled games don't have achievements at all. geoDefense Swarm, for example, uses OpenFeint leaderboards, but curiously opts out of achievements.

Game Center unlocks the achievement for +25 points:
OpenFeint has the advantage of more games and therefore more achievements, but Game Center ensures an official playing field and a better system of achievements overall.

Social networking

OpenFeintBoth Game Center and OpenFeint offer friends lists, but the similarities end there.

A stunning lack of features puts Apple's service well behind the competition, which boasts an impressive array of social networking features ranging from Twitter and Facebook integration, as well as extended options for inviting and finding friends.

All that's available for social networking in Game Center is the ability to maintain a friends list. Sending invites using a person's user name or email address is the only way in which you can add someone to your list, as Game Center doesn't allow you to view another user's friends list to find potential new buddies.

Game Center suffers, in fact, with regards to social networking because it appears that international friends aren't supported. Our efforts to add friends from other countries is met with error messages.

OpenFeint unlocks the achievement for +25 points:
OpenFeint does, though. And you can link to your Twitter and/or Facebook account to push notices when you earn achievements across both services.

Furthermore, OpenFeint supports games running on iPad, which extends the network's reach. Game Center will support iPad in the near future, but for now OpenFeint beats it on the device.

Communication features

There's absolutely no contest between Game Center and OpenFeint here - the latter is a cutting edge network that supports live chat rooms and messaging between friends. What does Game Center offer for communication with your friends and fellow gamers? nothing.

OpenFeint unlocks the achievement for +25 points:
Much has to be done to make Game Center competitive with OpenFeint because it currently pales in comparison.

If you want to communicate with anyone via Game Center, exit your game and ring them up, send an e-mail or text message, or use FaceTime. Anticipate OpenFeint maintaining its superiority in this area for some time.


OpenFeint beats Game Center 75pts to 25pts:
Apple has much work to do before Game Center can eclipse OpenFeint as the premier social gaming network on iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.

It's an unusual position for Apple to find itself in given that the company created the devices on which these networks run, yet the decision to launch Game Center with limited functionality puts it at a serious disadvantage to a feature-rich OpenFeint.

Tracy Erickson
Tracy Erickson
Manning our editorial outpost in America, Tracy comes with years of expertise at mashing a keyboard. When he's not out painting the town red, he jets across the home of the brave, covering press events under the Pocket Gamer banner.