Like networks such as OpenFeint before it, it enables developers to set up achievements, high score leaderboards, and friend challenges, as well as new features such as multiplayer modes.
More importantly, because it comes from Apple everyone with an iTunes account can sign up to Game Center, meaning that for the first time there's a fairly unified platform for Apple gamers.
I say 'fairly unified' because it doesn't work for all Apple hardware. Old devices such as iPhone 2G, iPhone 3G, and first generation iPod touch, and - until iOS 4.2 is released in November 2010 - even iPad don't support Game Center.
Nevertheless, it's a significant improvement over what went before, and no doubt Apple will roll out additional features in future. And it's free, so why not sign up?
|To get Game Center you need to be running iOS 4.1, so head to iTunes on your PC, plug in your iDevice, and select it from the left-hand column. Then hit the 'Check for Update' button.|
Select 'Download and Update'.
It's a large 500 MB-ish file so it will take some time to download. It will automatically update your iDevice, cycling through and restarting it, so keep it connected to your PC.
|When that's over, you'll see the nice Game Center icon on your iDevice.|
|Tap on the icon to open Game Center. The first thing it wants to do is send you Push Notifications.|
You can change your setting for this within Game Center, or in the main settings option of your iDevice, so it doesn't really matter what you choose at this point.
|As I'm signed into iTunes on my iPod touch, Game Center already has my details set up so I just have to enter my password. (I've obscured my email address by the way.)|
To create a new account, follow the bottom prompt.
|Next we have some data to add into Game Center, such as country.|
|And date of birth. You can enter anything into this. It doesn't have to be truthful.|
|Now we have to pretend we've read Game Center's Terms & Conditions. Of course we have. All 11 pages of them.|
|This is more important. Your Nickname is how other people will find you within Game Center, and indeed within multiplayer games.|
Note that in settings you can change the option so people can invite you to play games, as well as ensuring friends can search for you via various email addresses and your Nickname.
|If you want to add another email address so people can search for you using as many methods as possible, this is where you enter it/them.|
|All email addresses used in Game Center have to be verified.|
This means Apple will send you an email that you have to open and click on the internal link to prove you have access to that email account.
|Obviously, you can only choose a Nickname that hasn't already been taken by someone else.|
Not 'thor', then.
|With my Nickname confirmed, this is what my virgin Game Center account looks like - a huge lot of nothing.|
|Maybe I want some friends, in which case I select the Requests icon on the bottom far right of the main Game Center interface.|
Here I can search for my friends either by their email or by their Nickname.
I will ask them to be my friend, or I can write a customised message if I wish.
|Alternatively, when your friends send you a request using your Nickname, this where it will turn up.|
If they send you a request using your email address, it will turn up in the inbox for that email account.