Google has yet to provide Android users with a built-in social gaming network similar to Apple's Game Center, so Verizon is taking matters into its own hands. The carrier will preload Playphone's "Games Portal," a combined app store and gaming network, on millions of Android devices starting in the second quarter of this year. The portal will be a standalone offering that's totally independent of Google Play — Android's main storefront — requiring developers to submit their titles for inclusion in the store. You might ask why anyone would bother doing so, and Playphone is citing a number of benefits that come with being a Games Portal publisher. First is direct carrier billing; games and in-app items will be charged directly to a customer's mobile account.
Playphone is also trumpeting Verizon's "massive distribution network and marketing muscle" as a surefire way to get a game noticed by users. With Games Portal set to be preloaded on all the latest Android hardware, customers theoretically won't need to take any extra steps to discover titles available via the platform. That's assuming they bother opening Games Portal to begin with; we suspect many of you will hide it from the app drawer soon after unboxing a new device. Despite recently pulling the plug on its failed, carrier-branded Android app store, clearly Verizon remains keen on including preloaded software (or "crapware" depending on your take) as a means of differentiation. And if you think your current handset is safe, that's a false assumption: Verizon will deliver Games Portal to existing hardware via software update.