Gree's decision to shut down the OpenFeint network is just the latest manifestation of a trend that's occurring in the market, according to Peter Relan, founder of social gaming incubator YouWeb. Relan, a longtime entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, sees this as another example of companies exerting control over APIs (application programming interface) in ways that might hurt customers. The ongoing battle over Twitter APIs, and the current clash with Instagram and Twitter, are other examples.
GamesIndustry International spoke with Peter Relan about this initiative. “The underlying phenomenon is that developer API and services is difficult to deal with,” Relan said. “This whole initiative started because a month ago a developer team that used OpenFeint came to me and said, 'We're going to have to pull out of OpenFeint, and it's a big pain... what should we do?' They said they would rebuild it all as open source, and I started working with them. Why don't we replicate GitHub for developer data? Let's give them the open source platform and a term of service guarantee that they can just take their data and their code wherever they want.”
OpenKit will be an open source toolkit on iOS and Android allowing developers to plug into backend services critical to apps in the post-PC era: common services for all types of apps, including a universal account authorization service and a cloud storage service, plus app-specific services such as leaderboards and achievements for game developers. Initial features will include authorization service for Game Center, Gree, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, as well as a dashboard for developers, said Relan.
“It's an open platform, open to your contributions if you want to add features, and you are never locked in for the data,” said Relan. “OpenKit will be the company that will run the servers and make sure you have a place to put all this stuff, but if you ever want to leave, just like on GitHub you can take the code and put it on your own machine. Every developer will have control over their own destiny.”
"An open source, open data option like OpenKit could be a welcome solution in an era where developers, including myself, are wary of using third party services for fear support could be discontinued,” said Danielle Cassley, who co-founded OpenFeint with Jason Citron and Relan, and recently launched her own game Avengees. “Such a solution would ease concerns while sparing developers the time and effort required to build their own proprietary solution."
Relan compared OpenKit to the popluar GitHub service. Like GitHub, pricing will be based on a freemium model, with basic services offered for free, and tiers of services for a monthly subscription fee. Even developers who use the OpenKit service for no charge will be able to extract their data and move off the OpenKit platform and host their own backend should they choose to do so later.
OpenKit will be available as early as January 2013 assuming a large number of developers sign up to support the launch of the platform, with signups open at www.OpenKit.io starting today.