Apple recently released their iOS 4.1 Software Update. This first major update brings new features such as Game Center, Ping (in iTunes), iTunes TV show rentals, HDR photography, and much more. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at Apple’s first major announcement — Game Center.
What is Game Center? It’s Apple implementation of social gaming on your iPhone (and later on your iPad). You can find your friends or even let Game Center auto-match you with players for various games. Game Center is one central place where you can track achievements and compare high scores on multiple games.
Installation. After installing and updating your iPhone or iPod Touch1, a new icon will appear in the lower right of the first page. This will take you to Apple’s new Game Center. It’ll appear as an icon, just like any other app.
Signing Up. Click on it to get started. The first time, it’ll ask you to sign up for Game Center and to pick a username/password for your account. This account will be associated with your Apple ID. If you’re using a family iTunes account, you may want to sign up for another iTunes account just for the Game Center. (This is an easy process, the button is just at the bottom.)
Just like any new system, it’s a race to add all of your friends and most importantly, grab the username you want. So even if you don’t play many games, you might just want to sign up ASAP just to get your desire username!
Friend Requests. When someone requests to be your Game Center friend, fanfares sounds play and a message is displayed on your device (of course, you need to give permission to have push and sound on for Game Center). Clicking “Accept” adds the user as your friend but it doesn’t take you out of what you were doing, which I really like! Usually clicking on these sort of notifications will take me out of my current app and into another.
Playing Games. Now there’s only a handful of games that have been updated to run on Game Center. Be sure to update these apps first before trying to use Game Center. Some games include Farmville, WordsWorth, Flight Control, Real Racing, Pac-Mac, Cro-Mag Rally, Cocoto Kart Online, and a few more.
Be sure to be logged into Game Center and then launch your game of choice. You should see a sliding note on top of your app that says “Welcome back, USERNAME.” That lets your know that you’re logged in on Game Center. Now play the game just like you would. Depending on the game, you may have more options on game play as well as different types of achievements.
Game Center. Now that you played a few games2, close them and launch Game Center. On the first screen, you will see your profile — your username, number of friends, games played, achievements, your status update, and your iTunes email account. At the bottom are 4 tabs — Me (current page), Friends, Games, and Requests.
The tab “Friends” lists all of your accepted friends. You are able to view their status (similar to Twitter or Facebook Status). If you drill down deeper, you can see their profiles, all the games they played, and the games you have in common. If you don’t have the games they play, you can click on the link and purchase the apps. That’s a clever way of selling apps! For the games you do have in common, another page displays that puts your scores and achievements head-to-head with theirs.
The tab “Games” lists all the games you played (that have Game Center). Clicking on them will show you the leaderboards, achievements available and which you have accomplished. There’s also a button at the bottom that says “Find Game Center Games.” Clicking on this will take you into the iTunes App Store where you can purchase apps with Game Center enabled.
Lastly, the tab “Requests” will lists all of your friend requests. The number of requests here will be the red badge number on your Game Center icon.
Overall, Game Center is a great idea for social gaming. Unfortunately, it’s still too early to really test out the system since only a few games have Game Center enabled. The idea of social gaming is not new. There are already some successful systems in placed like Plus+ and OpenFeint, so I’m interested in seeing how Game Center will affect them.
1. iOS 4.1 only works on iPhone 3Gs and higher, iPod Touch Gen 2 and higher.
2. Only some games have been updated to run Game Center. Be sure to read the game developer’s notes.
Note: This article was original written for Beatweek Magazine.