Apple's iOS Game Center: Lifeless

When the iOS 4.1 update went live, I fully intended to tinker with Game Center and to post some impressions here. But so far, my only impression of the social gaming hub for iPhone and iPod Touch is that it wasn't fully baked at launch.

Since installing Game Center before lunch, I've accumulated a few friends, and we're all wondering the same thing: Now what? Aside from adding friends and altering a status message, there isn't anything to do in Game Center. The app doesn't tell you what games are supported or provide links to the App Store. A button for "Find Game Center Games" boots the player out Apple's Game Center web page, which is basically an advertisement with no resources for people who are already using the service. Apparently, Ms. Pac-Man is one of the first games to support Game Center, but there's no way to figure that out from within the app.

I've had high hopes for Game Center since Apple announced it alongside iOS 4 in April. The concept is a lot like Xbox Live -- you can invite friends to games, rack up achievements and get paired with strangers of similar skill in multiplayer -- but it's still a novel idea for smartphones and handheld game consoles. This was a clever move by Apple, adding a social layer to its App Store games to keep people hooked.

So I was thinking today's launch would be a grand occasion, with iPhone and iPod Touch gamers -- there are apparently so many of them -- buzzing about with challenges and friend requests. Instead, Game Center's launch day is a bust. As soon as Apple adds some actual things to do, I'll post some real impressions. In the meantime, look for me under the nickname ThePimpOfSound.

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