Apple kills the Game Center app, but the service will continue

With the introduction of iOS 10, Apple will finally allow users to delete the pre-installed apps – like Compass, Stocks, Tips, Maps, Watch, and more – from their smartphones and tablets. But there’s one app that you won’t need to remove: Game Center. Apple confirms that Game Center will continue as a service, but it will no longer be available as a standalone application on their devices.

There were a number of hints that this was the case.

Apple just published a nearly full line-up of its native apps to the App Store, so that users who remove them from their devices could later re-download them if necessary. Game Center, surprisingly, was not among this list, despite being what’s certainly one of the less essential built-in apps.

Another hint that Game Center was going to be removed as a standalone application came alongside the launch of the iOS 10 beta yesterday. Testers soon discovered that the app didn’t appear on their homescreens after the upgrade.

However, neither of these things alone can serve as confirmation of a removal. Many things could change from beta to public release, for starters. (For all anyone knew, Game Center could be getting a makeover.) Plus, Apple hasn’t published all its native apps to iTunes. Safari, Phone, Photos, Messages, Health, News, Activity, and Wallet, for example, can’t be deleted.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that the App Review Guidelines, which were also just updated, still refer to Game Center, the Game Center website still offers developer guides and reference materials with no note of a shutdown, and Apple even mentioned that Apple Watch was getting Game Center integration with the launch of watchOS 3.

That implies that the service is still sticking around, at least in some form.

As it turns out, it is. Game Center is a service now, but no longer an app. Apple also confirms this in its developer documentation about what’s new with iOS.

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Released with iOS 4.1 in September 2010, and expanded to OS X in July of 2012, the Game Center platform is meant to offer gamers a social experience where they can connect with friends, track high scores on a leaderboard, compare achievements, and kick off multiplayer games through auto-matching.

A number of iOS applications integrate with Game Center to offer these features (or a subset of them) within their own gaming environment. As 9to5Mac discovered last year, the Game Center app actually exposed how many total users Game Center has: as of December 2015, 405,519,488 players were using the application.

However, just because games offer the Game Center-powered features, that doesn’t mean the standalone Game Center app itself was seeing significant usage. Unfortunately, there’s not a good way to track the app’s overall popularity in terms of user engagement, because third-party analytics firms aren’t able to track usage data for Apple’s system apps.

Still, many iOS users have long since shoved Game Center into their “unused” Apple apps folder, as it’s not something that needs to be accessed regularly. Or at never, really, for that matter. With iOS 10, you won’t need to bother with that. Game Center is gone, and you can just delete the rest.