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Android gamer communities on the rise, attracting corporate attention

by Kristen Nicole

Android game popularity may be decreasing in lieu of entertainment apps, but an emerging trend for mobile gaming communities may offer the best of both worlds. There’s growing expectations for Microsoft’s Xbox LIVE games and community to be made available on the Android platform, following in Sony’s footsteps with their cross-platform strategy for the PlayStation Network. Others are looking to Android as an extension for gaming communities, including Steam.

Steam launch reveals a case of corporate control?

Launched in beta last week, Steam’s official Android app delivers a gaming portal on the go. Chat with friends, browse community groups and user profiles, and stay abreast of gaming news and title sales. It’s an important development for Steam, addressing user requests for an Android app to access the game community. But with Steam’s official launch, several unofficial apps are now mysteriously absent from the Android Market.

The majority of the unofficial Steam apps have apparently been removed from the Android Market, including IBF Programs’ version, launched just a couple of weeks before the official app was released. It appears to be a case of corporate influence, and is particularly unsettling given the public availability of the Steam API, which was likely leveraged for even the most well-crafted unofficial Steam app. There was a similar situation of disappearing apps when Sony first launched its Android-powered gaming phone, the Xperia PLAY. A string of game emulators, many of which supported console games for Sony and Nintendo, found they were no longer welcome in the Android Market.

AllJoyn connects local Android gamers

Despite the back door policies, it’s clear that the social side of gaming will prevail. Qualcomm is also hoping to get in on the fun as it works on a peer-to-peer proximity-based sharing technology that can be used for gaming and streaming media between Android devices. Called AllJoyn, it simplifies device-to-device communication and can be integrated into apps, including games. Using your Android device’s Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity, AllJoyn removes the barrier of manually connecting or pairing devices so you can get straight to the fun. Demoed at CES this year, AllJoyn is being continuously explored for new areas of integration.