OpenFeint and Scoreloop execs praise Google's cross-platform approach
But devs need their user data says OpenKit's Relan
But theres no doubting the corporate significance of the move.
If youre creating global mobile gaming services, you want as many people around the world playing them, and that means supporting as many different devices as possible.
Back to the future
Of course, when it comes to social gaming platforms, weve been through this sort of thing before.
Back in 2009 and 2010, there were plenty of open gaming services. The difference was that OpenFeint, Scoreloop and Plus+ were operated by thirdparty vendors.
Indeed, Apples announcement of Game Center in 2011 merely encouraged them to become more cross-platform i.e. making Android their lead platform instead of iOS.
Its really gratifying to see that what OpenFeint built and popularised four years ago is now the de facto featureset, notes Peter Relan, the companys original investor.
Its OpenFeints legacy that is playing out on mobile.
Its a message echoed by Volker Hirsch, who worked for Scoreloop, now part of BlackBerry.
Yay, Google now does what Scoreloop has been doing for 3-odd years. Glad they realised this, too, now! he tweeted.
A different ball game
That may be the case in terms of social features, but the commercial issue for those first penguins into mobile gaming platforms was they never generated any revenue.
Venture-funded, all three were eventually snapped up in big dollar deals, although being loss-making operations.
One of their problems was even to find a business model. Free for developers, OpenFeint and Scoreloop looked to sell platform-wide virtual currency and take a cut.
And this is exactly the way DeNA, which bought Plus+, and GREE, which bought OpenFeint, operate.
Both companies generating billions of dollars annually, but they built their scale in the Japanese feature phone market: a very different environment to the emerging US smartphone games market of 2010.
Where's my data?
When it comes to the current playing field, of course, neither Apple or Google need to generate direct revenue from their gaming services.
For them its all about the strengthening their platform.
Peter Relan thinks theres still an opportunity for an indie service provider of cross-platform social mobile gaming services, though.
Hes currently backing such an initiative, OpenKit.
Google and Apple are focusing on their services being tied into Google+ and Game Center (iTunes) IDs, he argues.
OpenKits mission from day one has been no lock-in. OpenKit will support all user IDs and you, the developer, not the platform holder owns the user data in your game.
And more generally, Relan doesnt think companies like Apple, Microsoft or Sony will follow Google's lead in becoming more open.
Googles in a unique position that Android is so pervasive it can go cross-platform without worrying about losing its vertical platform solution. No-one else has that leverage, he says.