Opinion: OpenFeint’s arrival on Android is worrying for Apple

Hell hath no fury like a social gaming network scorned

Opinion: OpenFeint’s arrival on Android is worrying for Apple

OpenFeint has swept onto the Android Market in dramatic fashion, dragging ten top iPhone titles in its wake and promising ten more by the end of the month.

It comes at a time when Android gamers were getting a little concerned at a gaming scene that was struggling to get off the ground.

Indeed, you have to wonder why Aurora Feint didn’t make the move sooner. It’s been on the cards for a while, after all.

It might simply have been a question of logistics – getting 20 games from 17 developers together and running on fragmented Android hardware can’t have been an easy task.

But I can’t help thinking it has something to do with a certain recently released Apple initiative.

Center of the storm

Last week’s release of Game Center threw a spanner in the works for all of the social gaming networks operating on the App Store. While it’s great that Apple is unifying the social gaming process on its platform (and not before time) it’s left huge question marks over the future of services such as OpenFeint.

No big deal, you say? OpenFeint is a much better service than Game Center 1.0, we say.

This week’s news brings with it an emphatic answer and a huge statement of intent. OpenFeint is here to stay, and if that means throwing its weight behind iPhone’s greatest rival, so be it.

It goes beyond simple support, though. Jason Citron’s comment that, “the major wireless carriers are partnering with us to select the best games from iOS to bring to Android" hints at something far in excess of simply integrating his service into an assortment of games.

It suggests that Aurora Feint is actively working at moulding and developing Android into a serious gaming platform, which is well beyond the remit of your average social gaming network.

If Aurora Feint can become the social network of choice for Android, avoiding the fragmented state of the scene on the App Store prior to Game Center's arrival, then it will be in a remarkably strong position.

PlayTime is far from over

Of course, Aurora Feint hasn’t abandoned iPhone. Indeed, with initiatives such as PlayTime – which will introduce an advanced cross-platform Xbox Live style service, including support for 16-player gaming and voice chat – it’s clearly planning on sticking around alongside Game Center.

With the aforementioned cross-platform element, OpenFeint can offer something that Game Center cannot. With Android growing all the time (one report claims it’s set to command a 24 per cent market share next to iPhone’s 11 per cent by 2014) iPhone gamers are going to find themselves with a lot of Android-owning friends.

It stands to reason that any social network that can allow them to play and chat together will be a significant hit.

The release of OpenFeint onto Android shouldn’t be seen by Apple as a snub. It’s far more dangerous than that. It’s a sign that OpenFeint is rolling with the punches, and aiming to come back even stronger with a service that reaches places Game Center doesn't.

Jon Mundy
Jon Mundy
Jon is a consummate expert in adventure, action, and sports games. Which is just as well, as in real life he's timid, lazy, and unfit. It's amazing how these things even themselves out.