It is about a month that I am trying Apple Arcade on my iPad. During this month, I realized that it made my iPad a totally legitimate gaming platform. I had zero games on my phone and my iPad; now, I have four, and two of them were meaningful experiences. In short: I had fun on a mobile platform after years.
What Apple Arcade did well
With Apple Arcade, Apple did something natural and effective. It said: give me 4.99€ per month, and you can get an all-you-can-eat of games, with no ads, no in-game purchases, or trackers. In short, real full-fledged games.
At first, I was skeptical, but after the trial, I realized it was better than I expected.
- Apple is actively collaborating on the development of the games. This is great for many indie studios and, because many games are just temporal exclusives, this may be worth more than what they get from the users’ subscriptions.
- Many games are mobile casual games. However, the fact that there is no dumb in-game currency, energy system, annoying notifications, and endless advertising made them good fun arcade games. For instance, Grindstone is a color-based matching game; however, the developer has no incentive in making the game unbeatable without in-game purchases. It is fun, and it has an amusing graphic.
- Some other games, instead, are “real games.” I am talking of games like Oceanhorn 2 or Sayonara Wild Hearts. They are worth way more than the 5€ I put monthly on Apple Arcade. The fact that, with an Xbox controller, I can transform my iPad in a legitimate console is really worth the price.
I thought they were just dumb, annoying mobile games. Instead, they are real games.1
But there is another point I thought about and that I believe will be an excellent opportunity for the indie game community.
The explosion of a new game types?
I was playing Assemble with Care, another small but cute game when I realized that Apple Arcade may be the most fertile ground for developing a new type of game. I am talking about short, highly artistic, and experimental games.
I dig little artistic experience. Maybe it is because I am too old to play 10-20 games with 60 hours of competition time, but I like short games a lot. The problem is that it is hard to monetize or sell games with the longevity of 3-4 hours. Players will complain a lot, especially in a world that thinks that mobile games should be free.
Take as an example “Assemble with Care” or “Sayonara Wild Hearts,” they are stunning games that can be completed in one afternoon. How much are they worth? For me a lot, but, for instance, I really really liked Sayonara Wild Hearts, but I would have had big problems paying 13€ for it on Switch. Probably I would not have played it.
I am convinced that small aesthetic games are required to advance the cultural momentum of video games (so that we can think of games not just like entertainment, but as artistic forms). Apple Arcade – with a flat Netflix-style entry point – may be the perfect place to make these games flourish. And I ate really excited about this.
However, Apple Arcade has some small problems. I list my concerns here:
- Discoverability is already quite bad, things can go much worse if the library of games will get bigger.
- I admit I do not know how payments work. How much and how the revenue of the services are distributed? Will the system be sustainable in the long term?
- I am concerned that a cheap flat cost for hundreds of games may reinforce the idea that mobile games must be inexpensive or even free.
- Apple’s curation is the most important thing. If the Arcade collection remains high-quality, Arcade will have a lot of value. But if Apple starts adding low-quality games, everything can go south very soon.
In conclusion, I am very enthusiastic about the future of Apple Arcade (and similar services). I am starting to think that they may work, and they may also bring some new life to the gaming industry. Everything depends on the implementation, as always.
I really hope my optimistic will get real. In the meantime, I am waiting for the release of mobile games for the first time in years. It may mean something.
Of course, all this may also apply to the Android correspondent service: Google Play Pass. However, I have not tried it, so I cannot talk about it with knowledge of the facts. ↩︎