Google Games could be better than Game Center or Xbox LIVEEvan Selleck - Contributing Editor
A couple of weeks ago, I asked on Twitter if anyone still uses Apple’s Game Center. I used “still,” because I felt like at the time that the built-in application in iOS had lost a lot of its flare since its release. Based on the responses I received, the general consensus was the same: People use it, but not directly. Some folks had the app itself on a page they never go to. Others, though, shoved the application into a folder they never open. Some told me they wished they could delete the application altogether, but since they couldn’t, they just hid it away.
I asked that question because I had opened the app by accident, something I can honestly say that I hadn’t done in quite some time. I, too, have the app shoved into a folder when I am running an iOS-based device. I can remember the last time I opened the app on purpose, though. It was to play a game called Trenches. It was a real-time multiplayer game, but to initiate a multiplayer session, I had to use Game Center.
In essence, the only time I’ve used Game Center directly is when I was forced to. I didn’t want to use Game Center, or the app itself, because it offered me something in exchange. The longest time I’ve had it open is to add friends, so that I could play Trenches, or maybe a few sessions of Fruit Ninja’s multiplayer element.
The obvious argument for Game Center, though, is that that’s exactly how you’re supposed to use it. It’s not supposed to invade your ever-waking moment. It’s a middle-man, and that’s about it. It holds a nice list for your friends, or people you want to play games with. It shows you achievements, if you care about those things. And it can initiate multiplayer games. What more do you want, right? So, as long as it works, even if you never open the app itself directly, and only interact with it through a game itself, it’s doing its job.
That is very true. What’s more, I believe that Game Center is still better than Xbox LIVE on Windows Phone. Why? Because Windows Phone itself is limited. As I’ve noted in the past, the potential for LIVE on Windows Phone is huge, even paramount to the platform in some aspects, but there’s just nothing there right now that make it worthwhile. Even if you’re a huge gamer on Microsoft’s console, the Xbox 360, having Xbox LIVE in your pocket is relatively pointless at this point.
That will change, I believe. I believe that will change in big ways soon. But for now? Well, to be honest, there’s room for another competitor to break in and make some waves.
And supposedly that’s exactly what Google is intending to do.
According to a recent report from Android Police, posted yesterday, an APK teardown of Google’s “MyGlass” suggests that Google is gearing up to launch what Ron Amadeo, the author of the original article, is calling Google Games. What Amadeo found suggests that Google is getting ready to launch its own equivalent to Game Center, or Xbox LIVE. It’s a service, running on Google’s servers, which will give users access to leaderboards, in-game chat, achievements, real-time and turn-based multiplayer, and other features as well.
If it sounds familiar to what Game Center does already, you’d be right. Game Center does most of those things, too. I will note that in-game chat, though, has usually been done through the game proper, on its own servers. A few iOS-based games allow for in-game chat over Wi-Fi, but the majority do not. I believe that if Google provides the support for in-game chat on its own servers, though, a lot of games on Android will provide that feature. Which, if that is the case, is a huge bonus.
The APK teardown also shows that Google Games will allow for invitations to games, which would make sense. However, there is something that I noted to be missing: A friend’s list. It bears to reason that Google Games will have one, especially with the fact you can send invites, but I can’t help but notice that it isn’t listed. That could be because it will just use something as simple as your Google Contacts, or your Google+ friend’s list/circles to populate a list that you can invite to a game.
One of my favorite things? Lobbies. I think that’s ridiculously exciting. That right there is a big differentiator, especially if it is indeed handled on Google’s servers. It gives it more of a console-like experience, and I can jump on board with that. Being able to talk to others in a lobby before and after a game? That’s pretty exciting for someone who likes to play multiplayer games.
I’ve said in the past that I don’t think Xbox LIVE on Windows Phone is good enough. I’ve also said that I think platforms like BlackBerry 10 are even taking gaming more seriously than Microsoft’s mobile OS. And there is no denying that gaming on iOS is second-to-none. However, there is plenty of room for Google to make some room, to pave its own way.
It just comes down to games. The truth is, it doesn’t matter how cool or great Google Games might be, if there aren’t any games worth playing. So is Google working with developers to bring some top-tier titles to Android’s platform? Games that will explicitly take advantage of this new platform? That could be something that they could unveil at Google I/O, in fact. It would be awesome to see some high-end, new games built exclusively (even if for only a short period of time) for Android, and their new gaming platform.
Now we just have to hope it's real.
What do you think of Google Games? Is it something that you think will help make Android a little bit better against the competition? Or is it just a copy of Apple’s Game Center, and it won’t make a bit of difference? Let me know.