Apple’s $ 5 / month game subscription service is about a year and a half ago, and you may have finally figured out what it needs to be. Recent releases of over 30 games represent more than just a big dump of new content. It’s a major shift in policy.
Apple Arcade’s new rules are just what you need and make this service a mandatory subscription for millions of iPhone and iPad owners. Now, Apple just has to step into gas.
Not all players want high concept art games
When first announced in March 2019, we praised the high level of ambition. Apple Arcade seemed to be filled with original “real” games, rather than simple match-3 puzzles and wasted time. We argued that if Apple could keep pace, it could raise awareness of mobile games in general.
A year later, after the service went live for six months, I noticed that the priorities changed a bit. Apple seems to recognize that games that work well on mobile aren’t similar to the big, time-consuming Triple A titles you’ll usually see on the console.
Art house story games like the Necrobarista are great, but there isn’t much demand for them on mobile.
Apple’s perception that these “advanced” gaming experiences aren’t suitable for everyone was good. There are big mobile epics like Beyond a Steel Sky, story-driven titles of art houses like Necrobarista, as well as quicktime killer like Crossy Road Castle and Roundguard. It was a wise move. Flooding Apple Arcade with big-budget blockbusters and high-concept art games is a turning point for many iPhone users. Many people want simple match-3 games and word puzzles, but that’s not a bad thing. Even so-called “core gamers” often prefer easy and simple pickup and play games on their mobile phones.
But launching a new title exclusively for a subscription service that people don’t care about is the secret to the death of a new game. And Apple’s advocacy of Apple Arcade-only policy almost guaranteed that no matter how good the game was, it would be difficult to find a viewer.
Get out with the old rules
Apple Arcade has a set of rules and expectations associated with it, some of which make perfect sense. For example, arcade games cannot contain ads or in-app microtransactions. This is a great, consumer-friendly approach to subscription gaming services. But not all rules were like player forwards.
The Oregon Trail has been redesigned for the Apple Arcade and is the best version ever.
Apple’s policy has drawn a clear line. Apple Arcade games didn’t show up on the regular App Store. It did not appear on other mobile platforms. It also didn’t show up on other subscription services (on any platform).
If you’re a developer, that’s bad news. You need to give up the Android market altogether. Also, if you want to play games on platforms such as PC, Xbox, and Playstation, you can’t make the games available on subscription services such as Xbox Game Pass.
That policy is of little value to the player. Apple seems to think so about the idea of subscribing to a service that contains only content that isn’t available anywhere else. It’s great to have a lot of “monopoly”, but avoiding the great mobile games available on the App Store and Android devices reduces the value of the service. (Apple TV + has a similar issue, but that’s another column issue.)
Apple has dropped over 30 new games on Apple Arcade, the largest extension of content since its launch in September 2019. But the big news isn’t the flood of new games, but the obvious changes in policy. These new games include a limited edition and are the first to include some great titles already found on the App Store and Android.
For example, Threes! Will be taken up. The slider game, which doubles the number of originals, was shamelessly copied by 2048. It was much more popular because it was free. Three! It’s a much better game, but it’s priced at $ 5.99 on the App Store. Also available on Google Play for Android devices. This is exactly the kind of game that brings a lot of value to the Apple Arcade, but it wasn’t allowed by old rules. Technically, the Apple Arcade version is Threes! Another app named + (the icon has changed a bit). This is because the exact same app cannot exist in two locations on the App Store for two different prices. But for all intents and purposes, it’s the same app.
The new Apple Arcade release is full of stuff like this. Chameleon Run, another great game for iOS and Android, is coming as Chameleon Run +. Monument Valley, Mini Metro, Fruit Ninja Classic, Good Sudoku … All the great games already in the App Store, many on Google Play for Android devices, now on Apple Arcade. The title is + only.
Another obvious change in policy is that the game needs to be available on all Apple platforms. Prior to last week’s major update, Apple Arcade games had to be available on iPhones, iPads, Macs, and Apple TVs. Many of these new “+” titles are for iPhone and iPad only. This is a wise move on the part of Apple. Cross-device playability is a great benefit, but you shouldn’t put a good game in the hands of your subscribers just because you didn’t imagine your developers playing on a platform without a touchscreen. Not.
Can Apple keep pace?
The release of a series of App Store (and Android!) Classics on Apple Arcade is great and is backed by some really good new exclusive content. Simon’s Cat – Story Time is basically a good knockoff for the incredibly popular Gardenscapes, without an energy mechanic or in-app purchase. Gameloft’s new The Oregon Trail remake is a rethink of the best 1970s classic game I’ve ever seen. Fantasia is a magnificent JRPG that you would expect from Final Fantasy power duo Hironobu Sakaguchi and Nobuo Uematsu.
Simon’s Cat — Story Time is basically a bit-free Gardenscapes that grabs the hassle of money.
From serious games to simple puzzle games, these limited editions are great in their own right, but Apple Arcade is a feature that really adds value to the service by incorporating games from the App Store and Google Play.
There are many great games that can (should) be added to Apple Arcade under the new looser rules. Bloons TD Series, Stardew Valley, Terraria, Tiny Wings, FTL, Dead Cells, Crypt of the Necrodancer … You can name premium games that make great additions to your Apple Arcade all day long.
The only question is whether Apple’s big content decline last week was a one-off event or an indication that the pace was updated. If you can expect Apple to add about 10 games a month, split it into both new exclusive games and existing App Store games, and give large mobile publishers some new titles on the Apple Arcade at the same time as the regular App Store. If you can convince it to go on sale, Android has the potential to grow into one of Apple’s best and most popular services.
The new Apple Arcade policy is a great decision. Now Apple needs to keep it.
For over 20 years, I have been professionally writing about technology throughout the adult professional life. I like to understand how complex technologies work and explain them in a way that everyone can understand.
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