Most of the initial buzz surrounding Apple’s announcement on Thursday of its new operating system, iPhone OS 4, centered on the support for multitasking. While this feature has been long anticipated by users and developers alike, another important but less discussed aspect of the update involves Apple’s Game Center – a social gaming network to be launched for iPhone and iPod Touch later this summer. Similar to the networks already prevalent in console gaming, Apple’s Game Center will allow friend invitations and multiplayer game-play and will include matchmaking and high-score tracking.
The Game Center may be Apple’s attempt to compete with Facebook’s dominance over the hugely popular and incredibly lucrative area of social gaming. A report released this week suggested that the gaming company Zynga, maker of six of the seven most popular social games, is worth over $5 billion.
Unlike Facebook, Apple does not currently have a social network upon which to automatically connect players and friends, although implementation of the Game Center may well bring this about.
Details about the Game Center were not explicit in Thursday’s announcement, although the beta release of the operating system will include a developer preview of Game Center and contain a set ofAPIs so that mobile game developers can build apps that take advantage of the social gaming network capabilities.
Echoing the popularity of gaming on the iPhone, initial analytics since the iPad release point to the continued domination of the App Store by gaming and entertainment applications. The updates to the iPhone OS could provide an opportunity for mobile and social game developers and for entrepreneurs in the gaming industry.
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