OpenFeint to become the Facebook of social gaming, claims veep Fassett

Filling the gap for a dedicated gaming platform

OpenFeint to become the Facebook of social gaming, claims veep Fassett
Companies claiming to offer up a social network for mobile gaming are hardly rare, but according to OpenFeint, no-one has yet delivered a dedicated gaming platform with the kind of scope Facebook enjoys.

And in the view of OpenFeint's senior VP of product Ethan Fassett, hired from Playdom in July, that includes his new company, too.

Following on from the firm's recent buyout by Japanese social gaming specialist GREE, OpenFeint is looking to expand its service from the Xbox Live-style offering it initially set out to deliver to a fully functioning social network that encourages user engagement.

What's a social network?

OpenFeint's goals on this score are anything but modest. In the words of Fassett, the company isn't looking to equal Facebook, but better it.

"There's this model of social networks that has been established by Facebook, primarily, and game design [on these platforms] has evolved around that," Fassett told Gamasutra.

"But what's interesting about Facebook is that it's really not a gaming network. In fact, it's a general-purpose social network."

Fassett argues that, while Facebook stands a model for the ideal social network, the fact it is primarily concerned with the activities of non-gamers means its hand in this industry has had to be checked.

"If you look back at early 2010, they had to very quickly clamp down on a lot of practices, where things that gamers were interested in were not necessarily things that the general population were interested in," he added.

"We will have a social network structure that's modelled similar to Facebook, but we'll be able to tune and optimise it more around the needs and interests of gamers."

Facing up to Facebook

Facebook's pending dedicated gaming platform, dubbed Project Spartan, suggests Fassett has a point, but it could prove also be a threat to OpenFeint's planned assault.

Founder and CEO Jason Citron, however, argues that OpenFeint's new aims are an evolution of the service the company was originally designed to deliver.

The roll out of Facebook-style features such as Game Feed, which will constantly notify users as to the activities of their friends, could prove to be a more natural transition for developers and users than an entirely new gaming platform from Facebook.

"The big shift that we're doing is we're making it much more rich and vibrant right when you walk in the door, so that people who like playing free-to-play games get that familiar experience that we've been talking about," said Citron.

"The long-term vision for OpenFeint is to be the world's gaming social network on mobile devices.

"Smartphones and tablets are going to be in every corner of the world in the next five to ten years, and gaming is the killer app on these things ... and we are just really excited to build the right type of tools and technology and platforms that allow the developers to build those kind of experiences for people."

[source: Gamasutra]

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