A service similar to Xbox Live is coming to Apple's popular line of gaming-enabled products.
At a media event today, Apple announced a social gaming network for the iPhone and iPod Touch (and eventually the iPad) called Game Center. The service is apparently similar to Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network and will include matchmaking, achievements, leaderboards and more. Achievement whoring is finally coming to portable devices.
As reported by Gamasutra, Scott Forstall, Apple's senior vice president of iPhone software, told the media that this wasn't a way for Apple to earn more money off of its customers. "There's no money to be gained or no competitive advantage to be gained from having your own social gaming network," he said. Instead, it's about increasing the value of Apple's products.
However, that doesn't mean the service won't be an indirect way for anyone to earn some extra bucks. Speaking of Game Center's functionality, Forstall said: "One of our goals with [Game Center] is to help the viral spread... You can see your friends, your friends can challenge you to a game you don't have and you can immediately download that [game]... And we added gifting in this OS so you can give it to someone you love." Game Center appears as if it will let gamers see what people are playing and to get in on the action. I'm honestly surprised that it hasn't been done already with the popularity of Xbox Live, Steam, and similar services.
Achievement details were not provided, but Forstall did reveal that Apple is "looking at different options" in regards to them. The more freedom Apple allows with achievements the better, but it'd be even more favorable if Apple can put a whole different spin on them.
Game Center will first become available as a preview in the iPhone and iPod Touch's OS4 update, scheduled for the summer. OS4 will hit the iPad sometime in the fall. Eventually, Game Center is expected to become a feature for all portable Apple devices. With certain gamers only purchasing Xbox 360s or PS3s just for the ability to play with friends online, this looks like a very smart move for Apple even if it won't directly earn the company any money as it says. It could also spur development of certain games meant to be played specifically through the features of Game Center.