The news that Google is looking to bring a Game Center-like feature to its Android smartphone and tablet operating system is a particularly interesting one, if perhaps not a surprising one.
The news came after Business Insider cited an anonymous source who suggests that Google is working on its own centralized multiplayer gaming system that would, presumably, allow Android developers to tie their games into it. The benefits are obvious for anyone that has played games on either an iPhone or an iPad – a centralized list of your online gaming friends, and probably some sort of achievement system that allows gamers to compare their own performance with that of others. It is something that has proved hugely popular in the home console market, with Microsoft successfully charging gamers an annual fee in order to take advantage of Xbox LIVE.
The news that Google is looking into bringing something of a similar ilk to Android does make sense, especially with Apple having had Game Center available for some time already. Google will no doubt wish to remove any advantage that iOS has over Android, and at the moment Game Center is one such advantage.
Or is it?
In reality, Game Center is not without its flaws, either. Having promised so much when it was first unveiled by Apple, Game Center has failed to take off with any real conviction and with games not universally supporting the feature, the online gaming experience across the iOS platform is still not as unified as Apple would have hoped. Until Game Center support is made mandatory, and competing services are removed from iOS games, Apple’s service and accompanying app will never reach its full potential.
What makes Google think it can do any better?
Microsoft, arguably the king of the online gaming social network space with Xbox LIVE, has also tested the waters in mobile. With Windows Phone 7 featuring Xbox LIVE support, the Redmond firm was expected to usher in a new wave of interactive games that would tie in to our Xbox 360 games and take mobile gaming up a notch. In reality, neither Xbox LIVE, nor the platform it lives on, Windows Phone 7, have managed to recreate the experience of the Xbox 360. If Microsoft can’t do it, and Apple is clearly struggling, I have little faith in Google managing to find the correct formula.
But if they do, then Android could take a massive leap forward in the race to become to mobile platform of choice for gamers.