iPhone Game Center arrives this summer

Apple's new "social network for gaming" will bring matchmaking, friends lists, leaderboards, achievements to handheld platform as part of OS 4.0.

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Apple has taken a number of swipes at Sony's PSP and Nintendo's DS as part of its strategy to promote its iPhone and iPod Touch as the preeminent handheld gaming devices. In September, Apple's Philip W. Schiller marginalized the DS and PSP as inferior devices, saying that their games are too expensive and "not a lot of fun" due to an overabundance of buttons--even while the company has labeled its own devices as "somewhat awkward" for gaming.

Apple's Game Center will open this summer. Photo credit: CNET/ James Martin
Apple's Game Center will open this summer. Photo credit: CNET/ James Martin

As part of its iPhone OS 4.0 press conference in Cupertino, California, today, Apple again took shots at Nintendo and Sony's handhelds. However, going beyond simply bragging about how many games and entertainment programs the iPhone OS boasts (50,000, by Steve Jobs' count), Apple introduced a new community-oriented platform for the device called Game Center.

Detailed in GameSpot sister site CNET's liveblog of Apple's event, Game Center has been billed as "a social network for gaming," one that operates in a fashion similar to Microsoft's Xbox Live platform for the Xbox 360. The service, which is expected to launch later this year, will offer portable gamers matchmaking services, friends lists, leaderboards, and achievements. Game Center will be available to all iPhone and iPod Touch users.

Additional details on what gamers can expect from Game Center were not revealed. However, Apple did detail additional features headed to the iPhone as part of its OS 4.0 update, which is slated to arrive this summer. New features also include multitasking, which lets apps for audio or voice over IP run in the background. However, this enhancement will only be available for iPhone 3GS and iPod Touch 3rd-gen models.

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