GUIDE: iPhone social platforms

GUIDE: iPhone social platforms

By Ed Fear

February 23rd 2010 at 9:57AM

A look at best connecting your iPhone game to its audience

Typical: like buses, you wait for one iPhone social platform SDK to come along, and then two do. Or, by our caculations, eight – but we’ll bet there’s even more hidden from our steely gaze.

If there’s one thing that Microsoft’s managed to get right this generation it’s the online service: Sony was in catch-up mode for at least two years just to reach the same feature-set of its competitor. It proved that people want to know exactly what their friends are playing; that they wanted to be able to organise sessions easily; and they wanted to be able to communicate with each other even if they were in different games. It also proved that with just a few simple challenges (or, in this case, Achievements), developers could increase the stickiness and even desirability of their games, while giving players the ability to show off and brag about their mad skills.

So it’s no surprise that iPhone gamers want a similar thing, but the lack of a unified network is a distinct problem, and can make it hard for developers to pick from the many options available. We’ve rounded up four of the most popular to give you a guide to their differences.

Scoreloop

Developer: Scoreloop
Games: Astro Boy, Pee Monkey, Parachute Panic
Platforms: iPhone, Android
Price: Free
Contact: Via website

Scoreloop’s Core Social is one of the less immediately popular social platforms, but given the recent expansion of the service onto Android devices – with the same feature list as its iPhone brother, and the promise of cross-platform challenging – that could be set to change. What’s also interesting is that the platform is touted as a white label service, so that you can integrate the features into your own interface rather than bringing up a separate (and often branded) screen.
www.scoreloop.com


Crystal SDK

Developer: Chillingo
Games: Guerilla Bob, Mission: Deep Sea
Platforms: iPhone
Price: Free
Contact: Via website

Chillingo’s entry into the iPhone social platform space looks like it’ll be one befitting one of the market’s biggest publishers – although ‘looks like’ is pretty much all we have to go on at this point. All the features you’d expect are present – challenges, leaderboards and achievements, plus a simple Unity integration path – but, given that the service launches in its first games just this month, it appears as if they’re only accepting selected partners for now. Still, with Chillingo at the wheel it’s bound to be popular.
www.crystalsdk.com


OpenFeint

Developer: Aurora Feint
Games: Fieldrunners, Space Invaders: Infinity Gene
Platforms: iPhone
Price: Free
Contact: Via website

Possibly the best-known iPhone social platform – and certainly the most popular one that’s not tied into a publisher – OpenFeint has won support for good reasons: easy integration (it takes 19 minutes, according to the documentation), support for saving to the cloud, in-game chat rooms and forums, plus cross-promotional opportunities and help with upselling free users into paying ones. Real-time multiplayer support is also promised, although is currently in private beta stage.
www.openfeint.com

Plus+

Developer: Ngmoco
Games: Worms, Charadium, iCopter, Eliminate Pro
Platforms: iPhone
Price: On request
Contact: Via website

Riding on the back of Ngmoco’s success in the App Store, Plus+ has already managed to receive a large number of integrations despite currently being ‘rolled out slowly’ - although the company says it has ‘enormous plans’ that include releasing an open SDK in the future. Those that managed to get picked for partnership can enjoy all of the usual jazz, including push notifications and access to Ngmoco’s ‘powerful metrics database and promotions engine’. Feel the power.
www.plusplus.com