Update: Ngmoco has responded to me about Apple's move into the gaming network space. Ngmoco's Chief Publishing Officer Simon Jeffery stated, "Game Center is an exciting First Party innovation for the ecosystem that reinforces much of what Plus+ has already accomplished and proven out early in its life cycle. It will effectively clean up the social space on the iPhone, which has become confusing and cluttered to consumers due to the number of social gaming networks vying for attention. Ngmoco has anticipated this move from Apple for some time, and is happy to see a cleaner developer and consumer experience on the horizon."
"As we demonstrated at the recent GDC, Plus+ took a strategic shift in direction a few months ago toward being a service, and less about being a set of social gaming features. plus+ is all about empowering monetization and discoverability mechanisms for the development community, and we have clearly demonstrated with games like We Rule that these mechanisms work. Ngmoco actually reorganized our corporate structure earlier this year to reflect this expectation—with Jason Oberfest now running the development of Plus+ as a service. Jason has unprecedented experience and success in this field, having previously done the same at My Space."
With today's announcement of the iPhone 4 OS, Apple unveiled Game Center for the iPhone—a social gaming network like Microsoft's Xbox Live and Sony's PlayStation Network. Even the feature list looks familiar: invite friends, matchmaking, leaderboards, and achievements.
But you're asking yourself: Didn't many games already support these same features through Plus+? That gaming network for the iPhone, which was created by Ngmoco, had many of these features. It also had other nice add-ons, such as avatars and messaging and achievements and scores sharing with other networks such as Twitter and Facebook. With the launch of Apple's Game Center, does this mean Plus+ will soon fold?
In the Q&A after the unveiling, Scott Forstall, Apple's Senior VP of iPhone Software and the one showing off Game Center in the photos above, dodged the question of Game Center supplanting other gaming networks on the iPhone, saying: "The problem was there are a bunch of different social networks out there. So the goal was to build it into the platform, and everyone can be on the same gaming platform. We expect developers will build this into their games because they’ll have a wider audience."
When contacted, Ngmoco wasn't immediately available to comment but promised a later response. [Updated with Ngmoco's response above.]
Other features in the new OS that will affecting gaming on the iPhone include Multitasking (switch between games and other apps on the fly), Folders (you can organize your games by genre), and the launch of the iAd network, which will soon bring distracting advertisements to the 50,000 games currently in the App Store.
Game Center, and the rest of the iPhone 4 OS, will be released this summer for iPhone 3G S and the latest iPhone Touch model and this fall for iPad. Unfortunately, Steve Jobs stated, some of the features in the iPhone 4 OS would not work with older iPhones and iPod Touches, but did not specify if Game Center was one of these.