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Apple Creates Social Gaming Network for iPhone

During the press conference covering new iPhone OS 4 features, Scott Forstall, senior vice president of iPhone Software at Apple, talked about the growing primacy of iPhone and iPod Touch games in the gaming industry.

Forestall pointed out that there were over 50,000 game and entertainment apps in the App Store, and other handheld consoles such as the Sony PSP and the Nintendo DS had less than 7,000 combined.

"We blow them [PSP and DS] out of the water," Forstall said.

Among a series of major feature announcements for the next generation of the iPhone operating system, Apple announced today the creation of a "social gaming network" called Game Center specifically for iPhone gamers.

Forstall also emphasized that gaming would continue to be a major focus for the iPhone.

"We want to make gaming even better on the iPhone," he said, "so we added a social gaming network."

Game Center will operate much like the Xbox Live or PlayStation Home networks. Gamers will be able to interact with other people playing the same apps on their iPhones or iPod Touches. That means they can invite and communicate with friends, post and view achievements in games, view their rankings on game leaderboards and even use matchmaking services to find people for multiplayer games.

Just as the Xbox and PlayStation networks added additional value for users of those consoles, Apple expects Game Center to make gaming on the iPhone even more interactive and fun.

Forstall said Game Center will be available "later this year." It will be available on the iPhone 3GS and the iPod Touch 3rd generation. Apple has also said iPhone OS 4 will be coming to the iPad in the Fall, so it's likely the iPad will be able to interface with Game Center, too.

Other new features announced for iPhone OS 4 include multitasking, folders for multiple apps and interactive advertisements that work inside apps instead of taking the user to a website.