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Wednesday, May 09, 2012, 06:24 pm PT (09:24 pm ET)

Google looks to replicate iOS Game Center, app purchasing

In an attempt to bolster Android's presence in mobile gaming Google is reportedly developing an app that is similar to Apple's Game Center, and is looking to revamp its Google Play payment system to streamline purchases.

An unnamed source familiar with Google's plans told Business Insider that the company is preparing a native Android app that will feature functionality similar to Apple's iOS-only Game Center which connects players across the vast sea of games available through the iOS App Store.

Google apparently recognizes the importance of mobile gaming and is looking to offer developers an in-house alternative to third-party services like OpenFeint, which itself is used by many iOS game makers.

"They are starting to really understand all of the needs and wants to make a game really successful," an industry insider said. "As recently as even a year ago, that really wasn't part of their institutional DNA, But I think they're getting there."

Just as Game Center makes single-player games more social by incentivizing play time with awards, so will the yet-to-be-announced Google app, which will bring a social element to Android gaming by adding an achievement system complete with trophies and online leaderboards.

The app is also said to include an option to compete against friends, though it is unclear how matchmaking will work. One option would be an opt-in or search service with in-game friending tools, similar to existing offerings, though the company is more likely to leverage its Google+ social network.

Game Center

Google is reportedly developing an app similar to Apple's Game Center. | Source: Apple


Another project supposedly in development is the streamlining of Google's rebranded Android Market, Google Play. The company is reportedly working on fixing the payment system to make it as seamless as the iOS App Store. Google Play lacks the lineage of Apple's iTunes-based system, which has been the industry standard for mobile app shopping since it launched in 2008 alongside the iPhone 3G. The source did not go into specifics as to what changes were being made to Google Play or when these changes would be implemented.

As apps have grown to become one of the most important features of modern smart-devices, so has their profitability. Apple currently leads the market in app revenue with a sales model that, under normalized conditions, brings in more money than the competition. For example, Apple takes in 11 percent more profit when it sells an app that is also available through Amazon's Android store, and the number balloons to 77 percent when compared to Google Play.

Google Play


Fixing Google Play's payment system and adding a Game Center-like app may be value added for Android owners, but it may not be enough to overcome what current data suggests could be an overall lack of app usage when compared to iOS devices.

A recent study highlighted the issue when it found that 80 percent of Google's mobile revenue was generated from iOS while Android brought in the remaining 20 percent. A separate study found Apple's mobile OS dominating the market in online browsing despite Android's lead in smartphone marketshare.

Google has not officially announced any information regarding the alleged app and remains mum on whether it will change Google Play's payment system.