Love it or hate it, OpenFeint was a very important step for iOS devices. Jason Citron and his company basically pioneered bringing something similar to an "Xbox Live experience," for lack of a better way to put it, to the App Store in a big way. Prior to OpenFeint, games might've had online leader boards, or multiplayer, but nothing was unified in any way. The first few iterations of the service were a little rough around the edges, but I doubt we'd have Game Center today if it wasn't for the popularization of services like OpenFeint.

In early 2011, Asian social gaming mega-corp GREE picked up OpenFeint for a cool $104m. Following that, aside from making the original OpenFeint shareholders a nice chunk of change, GREE didn't really do much with the service other than katamari it into their already existing massive user base. For the last year, OpenFeint has basically stagnated, and with similar services silently shutting their doors it's not much of a surprise to see GREE axing OpenFeint.

What is surprising is how they're handling it. Moments ago, developers were given less than a months notice that the service would be shutting down. Keep in mind, that while OpenFeint as it existed may not have been that amazing (especially as Game Center has picked up steam) it worked, and tons of developers have it implemented in legacy iOS titles that leverage the OpenFeint services in one way or another to make (potentially vital) components of their games work.

Developers have until December 14th to migrate away from OpenFeint, at which point it'll be offline forever. Even under normal circumstances this sort of deadline would be pretty crazy, but it's especially insane now given the massive influx of developers working around the clock to get their apps and games submitted before the cutoff to have them approved and on the App Store before the iTunes holiday freeze.

Basically, to make this cutoff, developers are going to need to drop everything they're doing, open up every old project that utilizes OpenFeint and re-code all of those API hooks to either use Game Center or whatever proprietary solution they come up with on their own. Assuming that doesn't take too long, compiling, uploading, and crossing their respective fingers might result in no downtime for their users.

A more likely outcome of all this, however, is just tons of legacy titles having perpetually broken online components. Because of Apple's continually updating submission guidelines, even if you rewrite all the OpenFeint code, you're still going to need to compile against the latest versions of iOS, support widescreen aspect ratios, and a ton of other work that likely is just going to be too much hassle for old and forgotten games that aren't being downloaded with any regularity anymore.

It's a bad situation any way you slice it, and while GREE is offering a solution to migrate developers to their new platform, with how they've handled the OpenFeint shutdown the general consensus amongst developers on my Twitter feed is that playing ball with GREE is the last thing they're interested in doing.

  • http://iqsoup.com/ iqSoup

    What made OpenFeint awesome is it worked across multiple devices. If you have the same app for iOS and for Droid you could have them both use the same leaderboards. This is a big deal to a lot of indie devs. Not sure what GREE is thinking--seems like a waste of $104 million to me. Anyways I've known this was coming for quite some time. I ended up building my own leaderboards for my current game so I wouldn't be left in the dark.

    • mikeg1234

      The other thing is OF allowed more than 25 leaderboards. That is the one thing I hate about GC. I believe the majority of games don't need that many boards, but it would still be nice if Apple would at least double that number.

  • http://twitter.com/xChillerONEx Pinkiepool

    Good riddance

    • JPhilipp

      Sorry for the developers, but -- as a player, I hated it. Didn't use it ever, but it always tried to push itself on me like some kind of popup ad or spam mail, even being kind of sneakish with the "cancel" button design.

      Will existing titles still be playable though? Perhaps it might act just like as if there was no online connection, or will it stall the game?

  • http://twitter.com/RubiconDevelop Rubicon Development

    There was notice?

    • dreamora

      Mail hit in like 12h ago

  • Gregg Williams

    Certainly is a big blow to titles that used advanced features, like ghost data tied to leader boards, challenges, and also OF's MP capabilities.

    • Greyskull

      Pocket God was one of the first to use some interesting features of Openfeint.

  • MoluckY

    Loved openfient! Rip

  • mrTofu

    You mean people still use it? That crashing bloated POS?

    • lucascott

      Part of why it was crashing etc is that GREE wasn't fixing it.

      Many of us moved to Game Center, Facebook etc as soon as we realized GREE was not working on the system. But I myself still find this move classless, especially at this time of year.

  • Jerutix

    I can't say I'm sad to see it go, especially since Game Center is on the scene now, but it was a huge part of my gaming life a couple years ago. Hopefully some of the newer games that still use OpenFeint will make some much needed updates. But, I agree, this will be the straw that breaks the camels back on a lot of older games.

    Looks the old guard has passed on (RIP OpenFeint, Plus+/ngmoco/Freeverse)

  • http://twitter.com/godofodd Bryan Gibbs

    I sincerely hope this encourages every OpenFeint game to finally move to Game Centre.

  • Deonaldi

    I saw that coming the moment GREE purchased OpenFeint

  • http://profiles.google.com/superspandy James Kochalka

    I'd be worried that old games that rely on openfeint will now simply crash when you try to run them. Is that a possibility?

    • http://twitter.com/jasoncitron Jason Citron

      certainly possible. depends on how a developer integrated it into their game. the more advanced features a game uses, the more likely it is to crash. at least game center now supports most of the functionality OF offered on iOS.

    • Brandon Kummer

      Speaking from someone who knows computers no that will not happen. Games that have OpenFeint in the programming will simply just error it out, like when you don't have Internet connection. It will just show up on the screen that you are offline or that OpenFeint has technical difficulties. Possibly it will say that your Internet is off. But no the game WILL still work and you can play it.

  • FakeName

    OpenFeint wasn't terrible when I first got it two years ago. The service was simple and basic. Overtime, the service have had some bumps here and there. But what made it stand out was its community. The service had chatrooms and forums. While it isn't as great right now due to an excessive amount of spam, I had lots of memories in the community, where I got to make friends with several great users, and all the other important things too. I liked OpenFeint because it was a way to connect many users together from around the world, and socialize like many other social networking sites. It was revolutionary for its time, and it will be missed. Sayonara, OpenFeint.

    • REkzkaRZ

      I had no problem with OpenFeint forum. Had a bunch of fun discussions on there, got banned for no really good reason, got unbanned, etc.
      I got a bunch of great pointers from players in a few games. And also followed a few people to see what new games they were playing.
      Since I got into AppShopper, I don't use OpenFeint much at all anymore.
      BUT ... is anyone going to argue that Apple's "Game Center" is actually good? It's completely flawed, lacks forums & email capabilities, and how can people share info that way?
      It's almost like Apple forgets the revolution of 'social media'??
      Do people think Apple has 'added value' to multiplayer gaming with Game Center?
      The only 'value add' I get from GameCenter is the asynch turn-based thing, but personally I haven't found a single game that does that very well (although I think Lead Wars is pretty amazing).

      I think when OpenFeint is sacked, there will still be something missing from Game Center. Maybe another developer will take the opportunity?

      Lastly -- how does a company (like Gree) validate buying an asset for $100mil and then shutting it down? Is it just an attempt to buy a bunch of dev's on the cheap? Seems a pretty expensive recruiting method.

  • Greyskull

    Will apps which don't NEED openfeint, but rather use it for scores and achievements only, be pulled by Apple from the store if they aren't updated?

    • dragon2777

      I don't think there is any quality control once the app is submitted to the store (I say this as a developer with a couple apps up right now). There are plenty of apps that crash right now on startup due to some conflict wether it be hardware or software changes that are still in the store.

    • lucascott

      If they get enough complaints about crashing perhaps they will freeze a game until it is updated. But they don't likely keep a list of games that use this or that to mass kill the list.

  • http://twitter.com/sumiguchi Jeremy Smith

    The letter also included a notice that failing to remove openfeint violates the OpenFeint Developer License Agreement....

    • dreamora

      Which nobody cares about as a ToS to a terminated service means what? Do they want to drop you from OF if you don't comply? ;)

      • http://twitter.com/sumiguchi Jeremy Smith

        well maybe they complain to apple that you've violated their licence and your app gets pulled....

  • vic_viper_001

    Fare thee well Openfeint... I don't want your "awesome features"!

  • putermcgee

    ahh gree-gate! aside from recent blunders involving letterpress, gamecenter is pretty nice. what's more surprising is that so many developers were still using OF.

  • DannyTheElite

    Good riddance
    Game centre is the best

    • REkzkaRZ

      Eh? HOW is Game Center the best at ANYTHING?
      You'd think a person who says stuff like this would qualify their statement???
      Is it best at preserving your anonymity? Best at matching you up with random game partners? Best at making a community forum to discuss the game?
      My point is -- GC seems completely lacking in these areas...?

  • http://twitter.com/TomateDiseno Tomate Diseño

    So owning Openfeint cost Gree around a million dollars a week… once again, I don't understand how people get into the position of being able to make these decisions and make them so badly.

    • REkzkaRZ

      It's called 'management'. Personally, I've seen scenarios in corporate USA where a company faces a decision, and the employees know the right choice & the wrong choice --> and you can almost place bets that management will make the wrong choice consistently.
      When they make the right choice, it's almost a time to rejoice.
      So much for the myth of the enlightened despot.

  • MidianGTX

    Bad news for developers, fantastic news for everyone else.

    • lucascott

      If Apple picks up the slack a little then it might not be totally bad news for us developers. I would love to see them open up Game Center boards to Facebook/twitter logins and even being able to see all versions of a game on one board, whether its Mac OS, iOS, android, windows

      As a player I also would love to see them requiring Game Center use in all games with multiplayer functions. They can have whatever else as well but it has to have Game Center and, so far as Game Center can do the same functions, all the same functions. Used to bug me in games like Pocket Frogs that Game Center would have scores etc but I had to sign up of something else if I wanted to share frogs and such.

  • Danoman

    I suppose I should have seen this coming, but OpenFeint seemed like one of those things that would just be there with its cross platform abilities and other features. Guess not.

    First Twinkies, now this. What's the world coming to. Maybe it's a sign of the apocalypse. O_o

  • toxiccheese

    Why do people insist on piling on and saying stuff like 'good riddance' and 'good I'm glad', etc.? OpenFeint was there to fill a gap when Apple offered no alternative to leader boards. Just because its an old service that's been surpassed is no reason to be hateful. It may not have always been perfect, but give respect where it's due. I am proud to be a part of the iOS/mobile gaming community and it is irritating to see this sort of attitude.

  • JohnPeat

    I've had a BAD feeling about OF since GREE stepped in, but I assumed they were just going to overload it with social junk and not just kill it in a way which will leave a tonne of apps 'dead in the water' - I think they just sank their entire business in one stupid move there...

    I think we need to keep half-a-eye on Scoreloop too - they've basically done nothing (other than some Blackberry specific stuff) since they were bought by RIM and I suspect we'll see similar (hopefully not so dramatic) changes there in due course (either when RIM get bored or go bust - either is as likely)

    Apple Developers will just migrate to Game Center of course but Android developers are a bit stuck - OF and Scoreloop are the 2 big hitters on that platform (there are others but they vary from 'new and risky' to 'outright dishonest and to be avoided by a country mile')

    • dreamora

      Unlikely
      RIM has pushed some major money into gaming. Gifting out PlayBooks, pushing their open source gaming framework which supports iOS and desktop platforms too etc
      I just don't think that the service will evolve for the moment due to the lack of expertise on RIMs end, a problem which Game Center suffered long from and still does out of my view (lack of vision of where to go and what changes it could bring to the game experience if it were more than a partial OF ripoff)

      • JohnPeat

        Companies like RIM 'acquire' things like Scoreloop because they feel they have to - not because they have any idea what to do with them.

        RIM have zero chance of making any impression on mobile gaming - PlayBooks are discounted-to-death, BlackBerrys are in decline (and the worst mobile gaming platform at the best of times anyway) - it's only a matter of time before RIM realise their mistake and fold the thing up IMO

        I think it's only a case of whether they do that before or after they themselves fold (can't be long - their market has been razed by Apple and Google - they're even losing ground to Windows Phone and that's like losing to a dead guy!)

      • http://twitter.com/bencamenker Ben Camenker

        Hey John, time flies. It's been what, a year and a half? It's not RIM policy to comment on the company-at-large and I'm totally not the right guy for that anyhow, but I *am* the qualified to offer up some comment on Scoreloop-specific things. : ) We've been committing an enormous amount of time and energy to the upcoming BB10 platform to make the gaming integration side smooth and, well, fabulous. We're growing at an astonishing pace on Android and other platforms (passed 200 million users a while ago and picking up the pace), and once we have a smooth launch in our rear-view mirror, we're planning on great things cross-platform. Rest assured, we want to do *everything* - it's just a matter of prioritizing, and right now we are committed to an awesome launch. OF was a huge player in the space and I've no doubt talented folks like Jason are going to continue being major influencers for years to come. And @Jason - we'd love to see some Phoenix Guild titles on BB10! :D

  • http://twitter.com/dweeteng dweeteng

    the notice is too short, considering the development time and the submission time, it is confirm that the developers will miss the festive period.

  • JTelcontar

    The OpenFeint app has had a notice for months now that OF is becoming GREE. Was this not really notice enough for developers and everyone else? I've been waiting for months to be able to delete the app and save some space on my phone. :P

  • dreamora

    You can add me as a developer to which GREE just made itself a hell a lot less favoring with such an ignorant and arrogant step.

    Also the notice talked about a weeks effort of engineering time for a basic GREE implementation, a long week in the light of the Xmas shutdown frenzy ... OF and GC take at max a day or two and alternatives not much more.

  • truplayr

    Is there a possibility to make a petition of some sort that open feint developers will been given two months time to make the necessary adjustments? I would sign it :)

  • JeromeD

    (I take it all back!)

  • http://www.google.com/ Jaskov

    I've always hated that pesky OpenFeint. Especially when it was present in a game along with the Game Center feature. Good riddance indeed!

  • Michael Irwin

    I don't know about "Good riddance", "Don't need it", etc., but ..... a pal, who writes games, contacted me about this (as I design and create database systems) to brainstorm his exit from OpenFeint.

    Is there a need for a totally cross-platform store for game data? Somewhere where your game instance logs in and can read/write the data it wants to keep persistent, so your user can game on their iOS machine, PC, Android machine, whatever. Or have those days passed? Have people standardised on doing everything on one piece of hardware?

    • REkzkaRZ

      I'd say it's pretty bad for Apple to "own" the game data & people on Android & other be unable to compare stats/scores or even do shared gaming.
      But I'm one of those 'open source' dudes...

  • islesfan

    I doubt I'll notice anything unless games just hang because the OF component cannot connect.

  • strivemind

    So, estimate on the percentage of games that just plain won't work at all once OpenFeint shuts down, due to developers programming some requirement loop? 20%? 30%?

  • AbsolutePhenom

    Thank god! No more annoying pop ups. And now I won't miss out on " the awesome features"

  • stormchild

    OpenFeint was a nice idea at the time, but at this point I'm really not sad to see it go. With Game Center in the picture, OpenFeint has become mostly redundant and is little more than an annoyance to brush out of the way when launching a new game.

  • http://twitter.com/RockingPocket Rocking Pocket Games

    I am doing exactly what this article says. Had to stop Win8 metro development to update lots of older IOS apps with OpenFeint. I don't want to switch to GREE because the same thing could happen again in the future. They could sell it, or axe it. Game Center is a smarter choice. I basically have a couple of weeks to update 30+ apps!

  • araczynski

    Best iOS news I've heard all year. Been wishing the death of this thing since it first appeared with that damned annoying popup.

  • makitango

    I dom't believe apps will crash at all... just imagine running your games with a poor internet connection or no connection at all. You might get an OF error prompt, but it won't interfere with the game itself.

  • http://twitter.com/A_DeSilva Andrew DeSilva

    Such a mess.. they really needed to give developers more time before shutting down

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jimmy-TheFish/100000139595167 Jimmy TheFish

    Well its a bummer as developer but as agamer always hated at startup it said want to add this cool features choose gamecenter or openfeint, well now i wont have to. Suck on that.

  • dyscode

    I am really sorry for the Devs! But their choice of giving GREE(D) the finger is right. And Openfeint I will not miss one bit. Though I nearly feel a bit nostalgic now.

  • disqus_IQOFoGfONx

    i really liked OF when i stumbled onto the chat rooms. i made some really great friends and i still talk to them this day. when it shut down the people in the challenges chat rooms were sad and we couldnt find any other place like it. we all fought, had relationships, did random stuff, but we had fun. if we didnt, we would have deleted our account. the only thing that needed to be fixed was the app crashes and lags, which were pretty bad. but i can say for alot of people that i knew, open feint was fun.