GDC Online 2010: OpenFeint after Game Center

The last time I spoke with the folks at OpenFeint, we were all waiting for the arrival of Apple's official Game Center app and wondering what effect it would have on third-party social networking platforms for App Store apps. Now, of course, Game Center is out. And despite the dire predictions of onlookers, OpenFeint is still rolling right along. The network continues to offer functionality to developers above and beyond what Apple's official solution provides, and it provides cross-platform services even outside of Apple's purview.

OpenFeint's VP of Marketing, Eros Resmini, met up with me here on the floor of the Game Developers' Conference (going on this week in Austin) for a quick chat about what he thought of Game Center's launch, how OpenFeint is doing with Apple's official network up and running alongside of it, and what's next for the service and the network. Click "Read More" to read our interview.

Last time I talked to you all was before Game Center came out. Now that it's out, how do you think that launch went for Apple?

I thought it went fairly well. I think Apple took a little longer than they would have liked to get that technology out to developers, so it took a while to get those games into the system. I think there was sort of a slow adoption curve. But even today we're seeing something like 10 percent of our network of developers using Game Center and OpenFeint together, so I would say that's a pretty good start.

Well, you kind of just answered this, but in terms of how Game Center launched versus OpenFeint's launch way back when, what do those two curves look like? Faster, about the same, or slower, do you think?

When I said "slow," I meant just in terms of the release of the technology to developers, in order to integrate it. Apple would probably be able to tell you better than I would.

Of course.

My guess is probably that it's a little faster than us -- certainly we set the stage for the notion of a social SDK in apps, so a lot of the groundwork is now laid in developers' minds about knowing that the stuff exists and should be relevant, and certainly Apple's marketing power, and having an icon on the phone is going to help them. (laughs)

What were your general impressions of the system and the way it worked?

I thought it was a good start. A good start. I think most developers, ourselves included, think that there's a lot that can be done, and we've got 18 months head start, so you can look at OpenFeint and see what we think is important.

I think last time I talked to Jason before launch, he said that there was a lot of things that OpenFeint can do that Game Center can't, and of course there was plenty of doom and gloom when Apple made that initial announcement, but it really hasn't been that way. It seems like there's still a place for a system like OpenFeint, right?

Yeah, I think so. Especially when you start talking about cross-platform and the notion that developers won't always be on iOS -- they're going to start looking at things like Android and Palm and Amigo. There needs to be a social layer that grows cross-platform. As much as I love my iPhone, I have friends on Android, and I need to be able to play with them, too.

But even in terms of strictly iPhone development, I still hear people saying, "OpenFeint does things for me that Game Center can't do." And as a result, even new games, Newtoy said this yesterday, are considering all their options instead of just flocking to Game Center as the official solution.

I think as long as we continue to innovate and sit on that leading edge of technology when it comes to social SDKs, absolutely. Whether it be offline support, backwards compatibility, the ability to save data in the cloud and switch devices, there's just a lot of things built into the system that some developers really need for their games. Where, for example, I'm playing 10 hours of a game and I really want to save that, and I don't want to have to lose that, Apple doesn't support that type of gameplay yet, so as long as we continue to do that, absolutely.

One of the things that Jason said before Game Center came out was that OpenFeint planned to help transition developers who wanted to switch over, and he mentioned that you'd be able to transfer accounts. Have you done a lot of that, or have developers mostly kept both systems going, or what have you seen?

For the most part, developers have used what we call our compatibility tools, that allow OpenFeint and Game Center to exist in a game together. We did create what we call a transition tool, but it's been used very, very little.

That's interesting. Is that what you expected, or did you expect more people to use the transition tools instead of the compatibility stuff?

I would have been surprised if a lot of people had used the transition stuff. Developers take time and energy to put OpenFeint in their game, a lot of them are doing what we call deep integration, so really integrating OpenFeint at the UI layer, and taking that out would have been a lot of work. So that might have been one reason. And then the reason that I think you were alluding to, which is that there's things that OpenFeint does that Game Center doesn't, and if they want those things, there's no reason to pull it out.

And then going forward, you're still working on OpenFeint X, which is the social microtransaction system, right? And all we've heard on that is that it'll be out sometime this year.

Yeah, we're still hoping to have games launched in December. I've got at least one title that looks very promising. If it slips into Q1, it slips into Q1, that's game development for you.

And I assume you're still signing up developers as usual? Just because Game Center's out doesn't mean anything's changed with the program?

Absolutely, we haven't gone anywhere. Things are going great.

Cool, thanks a lot.