Mobile Mavens

Google does Game Center? The Mobile Gaming Mavens talk Google's multiplayer move

Will developers take to it?

Google does Game Center? The Mobile Gaming Mavens talk Google's multiplayer move

The Mobile Mavens is our panel of experts drawn from all sectors of the mobile gaming industry.

Google has just announced what some cynical folk were already dubbing 'Game Center for Android', but what will actually serve as a fully formed multiplayer service.

This platform will handle backend infrastructure, and matchmaking for support across Android, iOS and web.

So, we asked the Mavens:

Is this the kind of service Android has been crying out for? What opportunities does it present and - to and Android devs amongst you - will you be using it?


Jared Steffes Co-founder Muxy

I am still awaiting a solid yet simple way to have multiplayer games across platforms. It's a bummer that I still can't play Carcassonne with my Android friends.

It will however be very nice to have what has become standard gaming services on Android supported by the OS' parents.

Christopher Kassulke CEO / Owner HandyGames

Check out what we did and show here at Google IO.

I can tell you I am proud to be one of the few partners who already have several titles updated today. Great new features for our gamers - let the game begin! HandyGames rulez.

Dave Castelnuovo Owner Bolt Creative

Well, I was getting ready to bash Android, but it looks like the multiplayer and cloud storage APIs are actually available for iOS as well, so this means that if you use the google API, everything will be cross platform.

We will have to see how stable it is and what kind of functionality is really available but it sounds interesting.

It would be pretty hard to convince me to move away from Game Center, but this made me think a bit.

Jani Kahrama Founder Secret Exit

Our Android version of Eyelord launched with support for Google Play game services, and the game is definitely better for it - using Google+ for friendly rivalry is quite fun.

For games on Google Play that benefit from these kind of services, it's a no-brainer. One clear upside is that developers can rely on this solution not to go the way of OpenFeint.

However, it remains to be seen how Apple will react to the presence of this service on its platform.

Volker Hirsch Co-Founder / Board Member Blue Beck

Alongside multiple industry roles, Volker is the co-founder Oystercrowd, Blue Beck, and Digital M. Former posts at BlackBerry and Scoreloop add to an enviable CV, which also includes the co-founding of Connect2Me

[This is not any official BlackBerry statement but purely my personal opinion!]

Well, I have said it on Twitter (and I believe did a write-up of it): it is basically what Scoreloop (and OpenFeint) had been doing for years.

Social relationships don't grow in technology silos and, hence, cross-platform capability is essential for this- even if some platform owners might prefer it otherwise.

The lack of uber-excitement also shows how quickly these functionalities have become ubiquitous.

When I spoke about customisable online leaderboards in 2009, people thought this was pretty cool and outstanding.

Today, this - as well as achievement system, peer-to-peer challenges, etc - are almost basic features. Specifically, F2P games often require interaction and online feedback loops, which rely on such interfaces.

However, software platforms remain fragmented, so there might well still be room for service layers that cleverly fuse the various tools offered by platform owners into one coherent kit, so I'd be doubtful if this was the be-all-end-all.

Oscar Clark Chief Strategy Officer Fundamentally Games

Oscar Clark has been a pioneer in online, mobile, and console social games services since 1998. He is also author of the book, Games As A Service – How Free To Play Design Can Make Better Games.

I suspect this is a really good idea for Google.

I am a huge fan of Google+ circles and I did try to use it in preference to Twitter and Facebook when it first launched. However, it lacked a differentiation in terms of ‘why’ I should use it. Hence I stopped using it.

This might well be a really good example of a focused interest where G+ has the potential to thrive; and I suspect that an organisation like Google is better placed commercially to sustain services which provide the social glue to games than bespoke social game companies like Papaya or OpenFeint have so far been able to.

There clearly is value in social integration and whilst Facebook is the most obvious, I would argue that there are some problems not least the way we use that platform to broadcast to all our connections.

G+ circles supports a more targeted communication with our games playing friends; which I believe has the potential to help with building social bonds.

If Google didn't have anything to do with the Android platform I suspect that this would be seen as an obvious step for such a social service.

But of course its impossible to separate the two. That makes it interesting to see how Apple will respond. I've never been a fan of Game Centre myself and personally welcome Google’s attempts; but that doesn't mean I think they will necessarily do a great job of it.

The proof will be in the playing.

John Ozimek Co-founder Big Games Machine

John is co-founder of PR and marketing company Big Ideas Machine. Also an all-round nice guy...

I think in answer to your original question, then many of the features announced have the potential to really add to the whole mobile gaming experience, and it's great to see Google taking a strong position.

As Jani says, it will be interesting to see if Apple improve Game Centre - or whether they don't think it's really worth it.

Whether it'll be successful is unclear. Yes, in theory, these are great ideas. I think that Cloud saves are something that every game should have, and I can't see Apple not doing the same kind of integration with iCloud.

But as for everything else, I cannot see a whole lot of evidence that the mass of consumers want highscores, social features or multiplayer.

And if you need a Google + account in order to access those features? That, to me at least, is a problem.

If Google really wanted to make these social features a success they would have allowed integration from any social ID - by channelling it via G+ it smacks of trying by another means to drive uptake. And I think that's too much friction for anyone but the most dedicated players.

My experience of Scoreloop, OpenFeint and PapayaMobile (disclosure: I previously helped Scoreloop with marketing and PR, and Papaya is a current client) is that all offered great features to enrich gameplay, and frustratingly the majority of developers only used the simplest features to add token vitality.

Finding developers who understood the value of real differentiation via social features, and who were prepared to integrate these features deeply into the gameplay experience, was much harder. I don't see Google Play Game Services (terrible name, by the way) being massively different.

David Thomson Founder Ludometrics

I'm not sure we can ever rely on any third-party provided service to never go away - witness Google Reader from earlier in the year, for example.

Oscar Clark Chief Strategy Officer Fundamentally Games

Oscar Clark has been a pioneer in online, mobile, and console social games services since 1998. He is also author of the book, Games As A Service – How Free To Play Design Can Make Better Games.

John makes a very good point.

A major part of what makes a social gaming platform interesting to users is the depth of features; developers often miss that point and end up making pretty shallow integrations - usually because they have other priorities of course.

Christopher Kassulke CEO / Owner HandyGames

The biggest advantage for consumers is that they dont have to register to another third party network.

They just sign in with the G+ accounts they have anyway on the Android device. Using features like achievements and leaderboards are quite normal correct but the Google Play game service is offering more.

I love the cloud saving in titles like Townsmen and the Multiplayer Feature within our upcoming title 1941 Frozen Front. Google developed something the gamers and the developers asked for.

Really, if you haven't tried it out yet, just do it. I'm sure we will see a lot of great titles being updated or released with the cool new features in the coming weeks.

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.