OpenFeint, the game-matching service for iOS and Android, has hired Naoki Aoyagi as the new CEO while previous CEO Jason Citron heads off to new ventures. The company offers gamers a community in which to connect that is rather like the Xbox Live service: Share friend lists, achievements and ladder rankings between friends and social media channels. If you’re thinking “Big whoop. Game Center already does that,” then you may not be aware that OpenFeint did it first, long before Game Center hit the scene… and some people still say they do it better.
OpenFeint was purchased by GREE earlier in 2011, a company with which Aoyagi was already deeply entrenched (as their 10th employee). GREE is a Japanese social network, and Aoyagi plans to merge OpenFeint with GREE in the US. How this will change the service isn’t certain, but he doesn’t come to OpenFeint without previous knowledge of game matching and social networking, so it could end up being pretty cool.
Apple’s Game Center has had a lot of trouble getting a foothold on the iOS gaming community, and many developers feel that OpenFeint (or Plus+, another game community service) is still a superior choice. Despite Game Center coming right from Apple’s back pocket, it’s stumbled on the characteristic Apple awkwardness with social media endeavours (Ping is another good example) where excitement and interconnectivity is rather subdued due to Apple’s inclination to restrict and limit what the user can do (a philosophy which works pretty nicely for a mobile operating system, but not terrific for social media). Until Apple really ignites Game Center to be the service it potentially could be, OpenFeint will still thrive nicely in the iOS gaming world.