Editorial: How Apple Can Make Game Center A Success In Six Easy Steps

In case you’ve been living under a rock or were completely off the grid last week, let me briefly catch you up to speed.  Apple held a press event last week showcasing some of the new features we can expect in their upcoming iPhone OS 4.0 update.  One of the new features was a social gaming network called ‘Game Center‘, which was a complete surprise to most people.

There wasn’t a lot of information given about Game Center except that it’ll have features similar to what is currently available among the popular console & PC social game networks such as achievements, matchmaking, and a friends list to name a few of the features.  Since info was light, I thought I’d take it upon myself to go through a list of things Apple should consider in order to keep iPhone gamers happy with Game Center.

1) Keep Game Center free

No one really knows if Apple will charge for their Game Center service or not.  If independent publishers can offer the services Apple plans on offering in Game Center for free, then why can’t the almighty Apple do it too?  Their MobileMe service requires a subscription fee, so they could very well charge for Game Center too.  If Apple wants to unify iPhone / iPod Touch / iPad gamers, then they’ll be wise to keep Game Center free.

2) Embrace the established independent social game networks

Let’s be honest.  Until Apple decided to dip into the social game network scene, independent publishers had to step in to offer these kinds of services themselves.  Gameloft LIVE, Plus+, Crystal, & OpenFeint were the most popular and widely used networks and Apple can learn a thing or two from them not only because they’re social game networks, but they’re networks that were specifically designed and executed on the iPhone.  Apple could make their lives much easier if they embrace these services and continue to support them instead of shutting them out.

3) Extend Game Center to the Mac

Why should the iPhone have all the fun with Game Center?  There is such a thing as a Mac Gamer and Apple should embrace them by extending Game Center to the Mac.  Currently, Microsoft’s Xbox LIVE is collaborated between the Xbox 360, PC, and recently, Windows Mobile 7.  I’m sure Apple is going to focus squarely on the iPhone platform right now, but they should definitely bring Game Center to the Mac as well.

4) Facebook Connect & Twitter are your friends

One thing I love about incorporating Facebook Connect & Twitter with social game networks is how easy it is to share all of my game progress and find friends by using these services.  With a new social game network comes the headache of having to obtain your friends’ new IDs for the new service.  If Apple could make all of our lives easier by incorporating Facebook Connect & Twitter to search for our friends, that’d be one less headache.

5) No game codes for friends, EVER

I think all gamers can agree that Nintendo’s Wii friend codes system for their game network was a complete and utter FAIL. Making users give each other a unique 16 digit code to their friends in order to connect with them was originally implemented to save children from making random friends online, but it also made it really hard for actual friends to connect with one another.  What made things worse was each game had their own separate 16 digit code to add your friends if you wanted to play online with them.  Apple needs to keep things simple and just allow us to make whatever game handle we want so we can share it with our friends like any normal social game network would allow us to.

6) Showcase games in a Game Center section in iTunes

We all know iTunes does a lot of pimping of music, movies, TV shows, and apps.  That’s all well and good, but Apple needs extend a section of its App Store specifically for Game Center to be used to focus on just games instead of bundling them in with all of the other apps that are available on the App Store.  This would allow for both gaming and non-gaming apps to get the attention they deserve without being bundled in with one another.

As I said, right now there’s been no new information given on what we can expect out of Game Center.  Although if Apple wants to win over the hearts of gamers, they might want to take a couple of the above suggestions into consideration.

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