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Current game network developers comment on Apple's Game Center

Way back in February at Macworld, one of my questions to Eros Remini of OpenFeint was pretty blunt: "Why," I asked a representative from the biggest third-party social gaming network on the iPhone, "haven't we seen an official platform-wide network?" Remini didn't have a good answer for Apple, but he did say that OpenFeint was happy to step up and fill the void. Apple answered for themselves this morning: They announced Game Center, which will be an official social gaming network for the iPhone and iPad, complete with friend lists, leaderboards, achievements, and everything else that third-party providers like OpenFeint have set up already.

So what does OpenFeint think of Game Center? We contacted it for a statement and we are told that OpenFeint is welcoming Apple's Game Center. The company has recently released a virtual goods marketplace called OpenFeint X, and their statement about Game Center says that there's still a place for OpenFeint on top of Apple's official service.

"OpenFeint X is currently built on top of OpenFeint and in the future it will also sit on Apple's Game Center social graph, achievements and leaderboards so developers and gamers don't miss a step," Jason Citron, CEO of Aurora Feint says. Current OpenFeint players (of which there are 19 million at last count) will automatically become OpenFeint X members, and it sounds like OpenFeint plans to move on to the virtual goods market, leaving their old social gaming realm behind for Apple.

There were a few other reactions from various developers and publishers about the Game Center news -- read more information from PopCap and Ngmoco after the link below.

Ngmoco's Simon Jeffreys echoes OpenFeint's Citron (or perhaps vice versa) in saying that he's excited about Apple's new service, and that Ngmoco's Plus+ service is also set to migrate away from providing social function and more into providing a framework for microtransactions and virtual goods. While he says that Apple is replicating a lot of what Plus+ already does, he adds that Ngmoco has already begun a transition away from just leaderboards and achievements, and towards "empowering monetization and discoverability mechanisms for the development community." So Ngmoco also believes that Plus+ can exist on top of Apple's Game Center plans, both as a way to connect players to developers and monetize those connections.

Not surprisingly, developers are very excited about Game Center. PopCap tells MTV Multiplayer that while OpenFeint and Plus+ were very technically sound, neither system ever made themselves "relevant" to players. But since Game Center is official, that ensures relevancy. PopCap's John Vechey compares the Game Center idea to the very popular Xbox Live: "Do we add achievements in our Xbox games? Of course we do, it's cool! The same thing with Apple. By Apple supporting it, it will then be relevant to people."

Finally, remember that Apple's Game Center is still an idea at this point -- while they showed screenshots during this morning's event, Apple admitted during the Q&A that it was "still looking at points options" for achievements. But there's no doubt than an official social network will shake up the current gaming ecosystem on both the iPhone and eventually the iPad.

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