OpenFeint finds a way to coexist with Apple’s Game Center for iPhone

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When Apple launched its Play center social platform for iPhone games, it looked like a support tool like the OpenFeint platform was doomed to failure. That’s because OpenFeint, a social gaming platform built by the startup formerly known as Feint of dawn and now called OpenFeint, has done much the same as Game Center, socializing games so that users make friends and play more.

But it turns out that iPhone game developers haven’t just embraced Apple’s Game Center, which offers features like ratings for games, developers have also continued to use OpenFeint in addition to Game Center. That’s because Open Feint has features that developers can’t live without, Peter Relan, president of Burlingame, Calif., OpenFeint, said in an interview. Not only does the gaming platform survive, it thrives.

In essence, OpenFeint and Game Center are both attempts to replicate Microsoft’s success with Xbox Live, the social online gaming service that sits on top of the Xbox 360. The iPhone needs its own platform. Social form for users to play multiplayer games with their friends, discover new games, and recommend games to other players. With Game Center, Apple is trying to integrate this functionality directly into the iPhone platform, called iOS. But OpenFeint was there first, and now it’s hard to get over it.

OpenFeint is owned by Relan’s incubator YouWeb, with a reported portfolio of $ 1 billion. YouWeb also owns social game startup CrowdStar, cross-platform social game company Sibblingz, and iPhone Flash app maker iSwifter. According to Forbes, the value of OpenFeint is $ 400 million, according to an estimate by Relan.

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Relan said that more than 300 top iPhone game developers are now using OpenFeint and Apple Game Center in a kind of double blow. Filshlabs’ Galaxy on Fire 2, for example, has become the highest paid iPhone app and uses OpenFeint’s social features and Game Center’s ranking service. By using both platforms, developers can maximize the distribution of their games and the money they can make from them.

“We have successfully moved on top of the Apple stack,” said Relan, which means OpenFeint is a platform that builds on Apple’s platform. “We are very pleasantly surprised. The beauty of reaching the scale (a lot of momentum) is that the market decides. Neither you, nor me, nor Apple. Rumors that Apple Game Center is hurting OpenFeint are greatly exaggerated.

OpenFeint has features that Apple Game Center does not have, including a network save card, action replays, challenges, messages, and developer announcements. With messaging, friends can send messages to each other in real time. And with developer announcements, OpenFeint opens up a direct channel of communication between player and developer. When a player reviews a game, for example, the developer can respond to it. You can’t do this in Game Center, Relan said.

“We used Game Center and OpenFeint’s social features to get Galaxy on Fire 2 to the top of iTunes’ highest-grossing charts in less than two weeks,” said Michael Schade, Managing Director of Fishlabs. “OpenFeint also provides special features that keep hardcore gamers engaged. Using their network save card option, our players play Galaxy on Fire 2 on multiple devices without losing their progress.

Relan said, “We have something so fundamental to the developers and they refuse to give it up. The fundamental thing that we have is a direct channel from the player to the developer.

Of course, it’s possible that Apple will add more features to Game Center in the future. But OpenFeint has a lot of momentum behind it. Since the launch of Game Center in April (and officially in September), OpenFeint has more than doubled its user base, from 22 million to 50 million users. These users have activated OpenFeint in over 125 million game downloads in the past seven months. OpenFeint has 14,000 developers who create games with the OpenFeint Software Development Kit. There are 3,800 OpenFeint compatible games, up 119% since GameCenter launched.

Relan said games that use OpenFeint have a high retention rate. The OpenFeint platform is free for developers, but they share the revenue with OpenFeint if they use the OpenFeint X platform, which includes virtual currency used to purchase virtual goods in games. About half of its players return to the game at least once a month. OpenFeint investors include DeNA, Intel Capital and The9.

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