SGN Launching Live Versions Of iPhone Apps. Challenge Others To Bowl Against You.

Social Gaming Network is launching new versions of its Wii-like iPhone sports games that let users play against others who’ve installed the apps.

In August I was disappointed that so few iPhone applications leveraged the network effect to spread virally. I used the chess apps as an example – there were lots of them, but none at the time that let you play against other people.

The chess problem has since been solved. But I am still amazed at how few applications let iPhone users interact with each other (other than the nascent mobile social networks, which continue to gain users quickly).

But SGN, which launched a bunch of sports-themed games that turn the iPhone into a Wii-like controller (and are experimenting with the iPhone as a PC game controller, too), is starting to experiment with multi-user games where players can compete against others who have the application installed.

First up is iBasketball (iTunes link). The app launched in November, but an update this morning lets players compete with others. So far it isn’t that great – you shoot free throws for a period of time while someone else does the same, but you don’t see them. At the end the scores are compared. (In the next update, SGN says you’ll be able to watch your foe take his/her shots real time, too).

But they have something much grander planned for the next version of iBowl, which originally launched in October. The new iBowl Live will let you play against three other players, and watch their swings (or whatever its called when you roll a bowling ball).

Any Xbox user knows how quickly games get stale. Going online and playing against others on Xbox Live is what keeps people playing the same titles for months or years. I think many iPhone apps, especially games, will follow a similar path. SGN seems to be taking the lead in innovating in this space.