Game Development Reference
social network on the Xbox 360. This success gave Microsoft sufficient follow-
ing to leapfrog well ahead of Sony's competing PlayStation platform. Some fea-
tures they included that successfully created a “sticky” social network include:
l Allowing users to create avatars, which give a visual persona to their online
presence. Although this move was at first derided as being silly or an
attempt to “rip off” Nintendo's Wii, there was far more at work here than
was first apparent. The avatars allowed for additional extra-game moneti-
zation by selling Avatar gear, which quickly became associated with strong
brands on the platform.
l Xbox Live also allows users a way to see which games their friends were
playing, and it gives the overall platform a sense of being part of a commu-
nity, which adds to stickiness.
l The addition of extra-game trophies (called “achievements”), which contrib-
utes to an overall gamer score (a classic metagame) encourages players to
explore games that their friends might be playing and to compete to see who
can play the most games.
l The inclusion of leaderboard APIs, which allows many of their lower-cost
Xbox Live Arcade games a venue for comparing player scores. The end effect
is that the leaderboards turn single-player games into social experiences.
l The inclusion of other information, such as when players last logged in, as
well as some advanced video chat features that help bring “friends” and the
idea of an Xbox ecosystem to the forefront of players' minds.
A downloadable Facebook application on the service unfortunately failed
to do more than provide a window into a different social network, rather than
integrating the two networks in any real sense. As a result, the inclusion of this
application on the platform feels like an afterthought, rather than a potent way of
merging two social networks. Unless something about the relationship between
Microsoft and Facebook changed, users and developers shouldn't expect to ever
see much tighter integration of Facebook into Xbox Live!
In short, with the Xbox 360 Live! service, Microsoft managed first to extract
a monthly fee from users who sought to play their games online. Moreover, it
turned the console business, which up until recently had been self-defining as
a solo experience, into a full-blown social experience—one that evolved into
social network unto itself.
6.9 Is Apple's Game Center a Social Network?
Recognizing that the hundreds of thousands of largely standalone games on
their incredibly successful iOS platform needed similar social hooks, Apple
released the Game Center, beginning with version iOS 4.2. Game Center allows