Game Center Redux
More and more games are connecting to Game Center, but few use the platform for much beyond achievements. I sympathize with both users and developers. Apple hasn’t exactly created an enticing platform for either party. To me, Game Center’s failure stems from it’s basis on old-school game marketing tactics, like challenging friends and community leaderboards. To the average user (whom most likely wasn’t a gamer during the aforementioned Madden marketing age) Game Center is just boring.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Game Center has the potential to solve many iOS usability issues and foster a large, diverse gaming ecosystem by taking a cue from Newsstand and adopting a dedicated folder model. Within the folder icons could be dynamically arranged by date, similar to the Kindle, with the last played game in the pole position. Such a model promotes a healthy ecosystem, quietly moving exhausted games to the floor while promoting embraced, new arrivals.
A Newsstand model would also provide a less cluttered, game-centric entrance to the App Store through a dedicated “Store” button. Newsstand has shown the iOS home screen to be “prime real estate”, capable of driving significant app sales. I’d even entertain the allowing Apple to drop a “Pick of the Week” game in an app icon slot, provided such recommendations were relevant and could be turned off by the user.
Even though a dedicated store entrance would surely drive sales, I doubt big game makers would take the bait. Each label wants to own their users, which quickly gridlocks discussions. EA, clinging to the dream of a successful Origin, never misses a chance to plug their own platform and fails to fix bugs with alternate multiplayer methods (I bet Scrabble becomes unbearable within 3 updates). Zynga and other social gaming companies require deep, fast analytics to offset the risk of their development investments by rapidly iterating their games, tuning a flop until it’s mostly passable. I doubt Apple will allow such visibility, especially if it exposes individual level stats.
Apple was able to overcome similar hurdles with Newsstand by allowing users to opt-into publisher databases. Such a solution would be inadequate for the likes of EA and Zynga, who leverage their user data in more advanced ways. For now I imagine people will continue to craft their own solutions by stashing the Game Center app in a folder, three screens down.