Game Development Reference
users to connect with friends, send friend requests, and host online multiplayer
games. It allows games to offer achievements and makes it easier for games to
offer leaderboards. The Game Center's core concept is straightforward, but it
seems to offer only nominally the level of stickiness that the other social net-
works we've discussed manage. Moreover, it does little to promote adoption
of its games by nongamers, though Apple's efforts to provide a boost to this
goal by including it in the default main menu for all capable devices make it
clear that they hope it will ultimately help lure iPhone and iPad users into being
gamers on their platform.
As more games begin to take advantage of the social features made possible
by the platform, it is likely that Game Center will become a much more lively
social space with greater utility for developers. If Apple wanted to truly pro-
mote some level of virality amongst games on their platform, they would be
well served to study other, more established social networks, from Facebook to
Xbox Live! and begin to emulate some of the features on those platforms.
As a result of some of these shortcomings in the Apple iOS platform, other
companies have been moving in to fill the gaps. OpenFeint is one, NgMoco
is another. Originally a game developer for mobile platforms, NgMoco has
recently begun to reinvent itself as a platform-within-a-platform by creat-
ing their Mobage service. Mobage seeks to provide developers with a collec-
tion of APIs that simplify common development tasks (Banking and Currency
Exchange, Analytics Dashboard, Social Features, and Distribution). They also
provide some comarketing support for products they think will help showcase
the platform. In exchange for these services, they take a cut of development
revenues for titles that appear on the platform. The net result of this is an inter-
esting example of a software service that seeks to exist inside the ecosystem
created by the platform holder.
Now we've got a good understanding of what a social network is. We've looked
at an overview of the major social networks in play right now, both those that
support gaming and those that exist for other reasons. We've looked at how
traditional games can use social networks to extend their appeal, and we've
evaluated how some hardware platform holders have sought to enhance their
platforms by adding social network features.
Perhaps most important, we've looked at studies that tell us clearly that the
types of people who now play social games defy simple categorization. They
are of mixed gender across a wide spectrum of ages. They are from almost
every country. They speak a variety of languages, and they have a vast hunger
for accessible content that engages them.
In the next chapter, we'll begin to dig into how to use these social networks
to attract, retain, and monetize all these diverse users.