OpenFeint X Promises The Facebook Virtual Goods Model On iPhone

AuroraFeint announced today the release of OpenFeint X, a platform which enables developers to create free-to-play games that include virtual goods and microtransactions. The service, which launched in Beta form today, is being offered to all OpenFeint developers who want to offer upgrades and virtual goods to their game players, and emulate the success of companies like Zynga, Crowdstar and Playfish.

OpenFeint already has an iPhone platform which enables developers to easily implement leaderboards, achievements, challenges and chat into their iPhone games. It has become one of the biggest iPhone social gaming networks, with over 12 million users and a growth rate of 25% per month. It is included on some of the biggest games on the iPhone, including Fieldrunners and Space Invaders.

This could be a move to help monetize game developers’ games as well as increase monetization for OpenFeint itself. Their current monetization strategy is not entirely clear, but revolves around charging advertisers for advertising across the OpenFeint network and charging game developers for being featured as “OpenFeint Gold” games. With this new model, OpenFeint will certainly take a small cut of the micro transactions that occur on its network, which is the prime source of revenue for companies like Zynga.

The challenge will be ensuring that developers see the value in the network. Apple itself offers the ability for applications to use microtransactions, and some developers may not need the advanced social features that OpenFeint provides. Time will tell whether the adoption of this service becomes mainstream, but OpenFeint has done a tremendous job of growth in the past, and I expect them to make a solid platform.