September 27, 2010 | by Andrew Kameka
Aurora Feint is a small operation in terms of its employee roster. But when put in the context of scale that it could have on gaming on the Android platform, Aurora Feint is a conglomerate.
Born out of a video game for iOS released in 2008, Aurora Feint has evolved into a company that powers social gaming platform OpenFeint. The company recently invited me to its California office to learn more about what its doing to making gaming on Android and iPhone a more social experience.
After some informal back and forth to convey what Android gamers want, and how OpenFeint is working to meet those needs, I discovered the following information:
Cross-platform is the future
“People just want to play games with their friends,” said Aurora Feint CEO Jason Citron. “It would be really ridiculous if you want to a play a game on your Asus PC but couldn’t play with [a friend] because he’s on a Mac.”
OpenFeint is actively working to make the interaction between Android and iOs users seamless. At the moment, OpenFeint acts as a link for people to connect. Friends can challenge each other to games that are available on both platforms, see how they perform, and track global or local leaderboards.
The Feint Spotlight app currently highlights apps running OpenFeint with photo thumbnails, video demos, and links to the Android Market. The iPhone version of the OpenFeint spotlight is an amazing app that really outpaces what’s currently available in Android. It’s disappointing to see how slick and feature rich that version is; however, the company promises to deliver parity between platforms in feature-by-feature updates.
Android will catch-up to the iPhone
Aurora Feint began working for Android because they “couldn’t ignore the growth numbers” (or the persistent nudging of a former Googler now working at the company) anymore,. Developers of popular iPhone games are starting to recognize the same and are actively working with the companies to port or build apps for Android. OpenFeint has an SDK and developer tools to make the process easier and they have been actively working on encouraging many of its independent developers to make the switch. They have already worked with some great recent games like Fruit Ninja, Flick Kick Field Goal, and Mini Squadron.
There are 8 games using OpenFeint on Android, and there are likely to be 50 games by the end of the year. Other games on the way include popular iOS titles on the way include Jet Car Stunts and Mega Jump. According to one engineer we spoke with, hundreds of developers in the OpenFeint developer console have checked the “Android” radio button to indicate that they plan to integrate the platform into their app.
The busiest period will be in Q1 2011. As the engineers explained, the holiday season is a busy time for developers, most of whom are independent or part-time operations, so they cannot devote the time necessary to build new apps. That will change next year.
Competition will be fierce
Aurora Feint shared with us the concept of an upcoming feature that I cannot wait to see implemented called “Play Time.” The gist of Play Time is that it’s Xbox Live for mobile games. Two people can play multiplayer games and have a live update of competition between users with on-screen updates and voice chat. So when we finally get a decent shooting, racing, or any other game that a multiplayer mode would enhance, Play Time would offer the chance to talk trash and track progress.
PlayTime will take only a day to implement into an app, and that is the potential draw of OpenFeint. There will be competition from official products like Apple’s GameCenter and the rumored Google social gaming platform that could come to Android. However, Aurora Feint doesn’t feel threatened.
“It validated what we’re doing,” a marketing manager said of the impending competition. “Other companies realized that they need to tap into social networks and our phone started blowing up from developers wanting to use our tools.”
I walked away from the meeting with OpenFeint pretty excited about what’s coming up. After discussing it with some of the other writers invited, I’m not the only one. The fact that they also have a hand in bringing over the last three Android games that I happened to purchase (Mini Squadron, Fruit Ninja, and Flick Kick Field Goal) proves that they are on the right track.
However, that track could be derailed by Apple and Google. Developers have to go where the people are, so an official platform like GameCenter is a major threat to OpenFeint. There’s still potential for it to succeed since they have the benefit of being cross-platform, something neither Apple nor Google are likely to offer. Maybe that whole “Open” thing will pay off after all.