Apple’s Game Center Takes On Trophies And Achievements

Achievements changed the way many people think about videogames when they released alongside the Xbox 360 and, with the eventual catch-up from Sony in the shape of the PlayStation 3’s Trophies, PlayStation gamers fell under the same spell: competition, bragging rights and the desire to see that lovely little pop-up in the corner of your screen.

Whilst there have been a few attempts to recreate that same appeal on the iPhone and iPod platforms, it’s taken Apple themselves to finally get it right, and in some ways they’ve actually managed to go one step beyond what Microsoft and Sony had come up with, especially with regards to comparing your skills with your friends, which we’ll come to.

Game Center iphone Game Center iphone

Apple’s system is called Game Center, and is automatically added to your home screen when you download iOS4.1, which released yesterday. Once you’ve clicked the icon you’ll be taken through a few setup screens where you can claim your user ID and ensure your details are all correct – it’s typically slick and Apple, and only takes a few minutes.

The screen on the right above is the Game Center home, which shows your ID (in massive letters) and underneath that are little tallies for your Friends, Games and Achievements. The Friend system is really easy to use, you can search for friends based on their ID or their email address, and requests pop-up in real time on the recipient’s phone via the usual push notification window (or within the app if you switch your push notifications off).

Underneath all that is your current profile tag, and then your email address underneath that.

Game Center iphone Game Center iphone

If you click on Friends, you’ll see a list of all your chums and their profile tags, along with what they’ve been playing recently.  Clicking on a specific friend will bring up their home screen, with all their similar data, plus a list that both of you have in common.  In this instance, Wotta and myself both own Flight Control (and have played it since it was updated last night so that Game Center knows we have it) so let’s click on that.

By doing so, you then come to a screen that allows you to compare Achievements and whereabouts both of you are on the leaderboards.  Game Center’s universal leaderboards and Achievements are astonishingly well put together and so easy to use, and allow you to filter by global scores right down to Friend level, so you can always see who’s beating who at a specific game.

Game Center iphone Game Center iphone

The image above right shows what happens when you click on ‘Games’ – you’ll see that I currently own four games that feature Game Center functionality (more are due every day now) and clicking on them immediately brings up a list of Achievements for that particular game.  The option to ‘find Game Center games’ takes you straight to the games on the App Store that feature Game Center options, which is a nice touch but will certainly need further categorisation soon.

Achievements work the same way as they do on the Xbox 360 or PS3 – when you fulfill the requirements you get a little pop-up and your score increases within Game Center.  An interesting thing with the Games menu is that you can instantly see how many people are playing the game and where you are in the global standings – in the example above over 35,000 gamers have tried Flight Control, presumably since the Game Center update.

Game Center iphone Game Center iphone

I’m impressed – really impressed. For a platform like the iPhone with thousands of games, this is going to be an invaluable way to see what people are playing and finally there’s a way for you and your friends to compete with each other on a level playing field – the leaderboards are diverse enough to be split down into individual levels and maps (like the airports in Flight Control, for example) and update continously.

So, with one fell swoop Apple have shown what’s possible – syncing is automatic, the interface is gorgeous – and if enough developers and publishers pick up and convert their games away from the other formats like OpenFeint and Crystal (Angry Birds is already on its way to Game Center, for example) then the compulsive nature of Trophies and Achievements will once again take hold of gamers. Excellent stuff.

User IDs and email addresses have been blurred out, apart from Wotta who has given permission to use his ID.  Images taken directly from the iPhone and scaled in Photoshop.


  1. Wotta ? I thought someone left him in the drawer and forgot about him !? ;D
    I’ve gotta do this when I get home, cheers for the tip nofi.

    • Still here, just on my own website now that’s all. Anyway now that people know my ganertag I will be expecting the friends requests to flood in. :D

      • thats cool im gonna check out your website

      • cool website i wanna sign up

  2. Yeah, I’m just as impressed, although I have a few niggles. 1) I can’t find out who my friends are friends with, and I would have thought that was a social network essential (although you can’t do that on PSN or XBL either), it just seems like that would be a good way to discover people you know who are playing.

    Hmm, can’t remember the other one, I definitely had two when I started writing this.

    Anyway, all in all, it’s super-slick and it’s very impressive, and I am already at my usual place (the bottom) on any leader-board I belong to.

    • I think you can actually find friends of friends on XBL. I remember adding some people via that method.

  3. Ran the update last night so will take a look later on. Top stuff, nofi.

  4. cant wait for more games to be available for it

  5. Shouldn’t this be placed on AppTilt?

    • AppTilt only does reviews, TSA is about gaming and the games industry. Seemed a better fit here?

      • Says “PS3 News, Xbox 360 News” at the top of my browser :D Better change it eh?

  6. “it’s typically slick and Apple” – Shiney, overpriced for what it does and you will have to buy a new one every six months??

    • It looks low-budget and too retro to me. Not at all ‘slick’.

      Has an interface like a Nintendo DS minigame

    • In some ways you’re right tuffcub, but I fall for it every time.
      All my earnings go behind a bar or on something else I won’t mention or to apple but they always seem to set the standard.
      Now downloading the update! Sounds like you need to buy an iphone mate :)

      • I’ve got an iPod and a Blackberry – Blackberry much better for my needs.

    • Yeah, its expensive stuff (but as with anything in life, you get what you pay for, even if that only a designer label) – but you get the choice to replace it as often or as little as you like, most people are on 18-24 month contracts so that’s a bit of a limiter as far as phones are concerned and loads of people I know still have old iPods

      • Got mine from Tesco. They piggyback off 02’s network and do a 12 month contract. They’re definitely worth the money, as sad as it sounds mines out every 5 mins in the pub using the crossword solver app!

      • I’m with Tesco too! High five! :D

      • Good man! Now they just need to make it compatible with angry birds

      • While I usually agree with the ‘get what you pay for’ I genuinely don’t believe that is true of Apple. No matter how much I use an iPhone, I cannot see why it costs so much more than a high end Android like Desire or Galaxy S.
        The same is true of many Apple products, they just seem to exploit people’s brand loyalty. I’m not knocking the business model, but it’s not for me!

  7. “Syncing is automatic”


  8. All looks very nice and well layed out. Must be great for those who like all that stuff. but for me, achievements, trophies, apple points, or any other phrase to name them are all pointless. Its just a number next to an icon?!?! If you could use them to purchase bits for games or even buy games with them it would be great. but as it stands, whats the point o_O

    • Well, there’s the option to compare your highscores with friends, for starters. Game Center isn’t just about Achievements.

      • Surely its just a way to get more page impressions though to sell more games? Just like Ping is doing in iTunes.

        I’m becoming cynical un my old age and starting to dislike friends, achievements and status updates being force fed.

      • i agree DJ. i’m in web development, and im sick of hearing the word ‘Social’. Kills me a little bit inside each time! Hopefully it will die on its ass once the market is saturated with it, and people get sick of all the nosing about.

  9. You mentioned the ‘little pop-up in the corner of your screen’ in your article. Well this morning I rather sadly punched the air when I got the silver “Multiplayer Elite” trophy in BFBC2. Yes, I punched the air. Ah, the pleasures of ‘working from home’!

  10. I await an Android-based equivalent…

    • lol there won’t be one.

      • I don’t see why not :/

        I’ve no interest in it but I don’t see why it wouldn’t appear on Android, apart from Googles ‘not bothered’ attitude towards social aspects…..which I like.

      • Its not a joined up platform, so it will only have limited impact and therefore is it worth bothering?

        by joined up I don’t mean its not good, which it obviously is, because it is fantastic!

        A game center would obviously be introduced in a particular FW version, and given that you can walk into a store and by all sorts of device which have 1.6 all the way to 2.2 and everything in between from all sorts of manufacturers across all networks who all offer varying levels of commitment to upgrading the device to the latest firmware… I don’t see how a product which ties it all together would get off the ground.

        Android’s greatest strength is its diversity, but it is also its greatest weakness.
        Apple’s greatest weakness is the closed shop, but it is also its greatest strength

        … go figure o_O

        Also, a report out today says that 70% of all Apps running on iPhones are ‘paid for’ Apps (quality games would fit into this) whereas only 30% of apps running on Android are ‘paid for’… where’s the incentive for devs to commit to making quality games of the class of Epic’s Citadel demo? which would make a Game Center worthwhile as time progresses?

      • Actually cc, I don’t agree. Google distribute a lot of their apps through the market, not built in to the firmware (Goggles, Maps, Earth etc).
        If they distributed an app like this, publicised it on the market and the web a little, and made it easy for developers to integrate it into their games, many of them would for the obvious sales/advertising benefits.

        I can easily see it working just as well as this.

      • Yeah, sure, I agree,

        What I meant was a Google Game Center could be released but might only support a specific FW version or above… so if it was released for eg. on Froyo, and someone walks into a shop to pick up an Android device, and there is a chance the device will be running 1.6 or 2.1 and you’re relying on a network to offer an update which might never come.

      • I see what you mean but plenty of apps support ‘1.6 and up’ and I see no reason why this wouldn’t. It surely wouldn’t require any features of 2.1 or 2.2

        The games themselves are a different matter of course (I know Angry Birds is only 2.2)

      • Angry Birds works fine on my Samsung Galaxy, which is 2.1. Just sayin..

      • Over 200,000 new phones are registered daily by Google , its similar to the hare and the tortoise . Android will win ..eventually ! Angry Birds is beautiful on Android .
        People are running scared and are worried they have possibly made the wrong decision . For every app on iphone that my buddy has there is 99% of the time an equal alternative . Yes there are more on Iphone say for instance 1000 compass apps whereas there may be 50 on Android but you only need one that works .
        I have a phone equally as good as an Iphone4 (and in some opinions better ) that i bought outright for £280 and only pay £10.50 a month for unlimited internet and texts +300mins .
        Having flash support and having no call dropping is really useful to.

      • I’m not dissing Android, which I said was fantastic, I was merely saying it was a bit splintered, and that they have opposite 70/30 splits between paid & free apps giving devs little incentive to develop expensive games of the class we are starting to see on the iPhone (thats not a slight against android, just a point about how the business model is shaping up)

      • I had no beef with your comments CC ! It was just the way someone said “lol there won’t be one” , bit fanboyish and if it was intended to get my back up it did !
        I enjoy these mobile reviews and this looks a great little app. Ive seen some on both platforms that show which of your PSN mates are online and which game they are playing etc which is pretty cool . The fact that they want your username and password login details put me off though !

      • I don’t agree with your assertion that the market of free apps stifles development of high quality games. Have a read of Arron La’s financials here
        You can clearly see that his free/ad-supported version was able to bring as much (in some moneths more) revenue than the paid version.
        Admittedly that is an app, not a game, but the priniciple is not dissimmilar

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