It was not too long ago when mobile gaming was considered magical.
Around when the Apple iPhone 3G launched, and the Apple Store changed the landscape of phones, mobile gaming was filled with countless possibilities. From people looking to innovate on what gaming could be to developers looking to make the most of this new platform, gaming on the go was an exciting avenue to explore. Then somewhere along with the development of mobile OS’s this magic subsided. While yes, there were still some exciting offerings, they where hidden under mounds of shovelware and cash grab games. The ability to download something and be amazed was becoming harder and harder to achieve.
It is in this landscape that Apple launches Apple Arcade, the new subscription service, giving mobile players a chance to dive into some of the best and most exciting games on the iOS platform for a subscription fee. The concept seems simple, and yet few have managed it successfully, at least until now.
Apple has taken the time to curate a selection of games for the initial launch. Each game feels like a complete experience, offering hours of gaming on the go, and a compelling reason to play. Nowhere in this lineup will you find microtransactions to proceed, required loot boxes, or general cash-grabs. These games are full experiences that you can download and enjoy.. It is a concept that used to be the dominant force in mobile gaming, and with Arcade, Apple is bringing it back.
Much like the majority of subscription services, Apple Arcade follows an” all you can eat” model for the monthly price. After the first free month, players will have to pay $5.99 CAD (with the first month free), to continue to enjoy the games library, although they will also get to download all the new titles as they hit the platform. Sadly, at present, there is no way to buy the games on the service, so if you want to keep playing any of your favourite games, you will need to keep that subscription running.
With that all said, any service like this needs to see a solid offering right out of the gate, and on that front, Apple Arcade does not disappoint. From the first time I jumped on the service I saw numerous games I wanted to dig into and enjoy. From Oceanhorn 2, a rich mobile adventure akin to Zelda, to Sayonara Wild Hearts, a fantastic rhythm-based racing game, Apple has built out a list of games that will almost everyone will enjoy.
For testing these games I used my personal iPhone 7 XL. While it is getting a bit older compared to the modern Apple offerings, it still managed to play everything I threw at it without any issue. Granted, this will change in the future, but for now, if you can get iOS 13, you should be able to enjoy what Apple Arcade has to offer. Also, due to the fact that Apple Arcade offers cloud saves, jumping between platforms is easy. Simply finish up on one platform, and jump to another. I did some minor testing with this, and all in all, I was thoroughly impressed.
Apple Arcade is planning a rollout to all major Apple devices in the coming weeks, with iPhones and iPads getting it with the new iOS release. If you are on a Mac you will need to wait until September 30th, and Apple TV will be getting the Arcade service sometime in October at last announcement. With the larger platform rollout, the direct comparison to a console competitor will always rear its ugly head, and honestly, Apple is better positioned now than ever before.
With such a solid lineup and all for a nominal monthly price, it has single-handedly made standard game purchases seem antiquated. Yes, there will be people that will always enjoy paying for the full-priced title, but the prospect of a full library at your fingertips is hard to ignore. Much like Netflix, there needed to be a major player willing to push the boundaries of what people expect from an offering to move the needle, and Apple is for once at the forefront of gaming and changing the idea of what indie gaming and development could mean going forward. But also like Netflix, Apple will need to keep the quality coming to the service at a high level, or I could foresee a heavy dropoff.
Even the moves Apple has been making with the OS are poised to make Apple Arcade more exciting. The ability to pair a Bluetooth controller with ease and just jump into a game is a game-changer for many. While most of the games on offer work flawlessly with the touchscreen, jumping in with a controller gives a whole new way to experience the game, at times making it feel like a wholly new experience.
As more platforms get added to the Apple Arcade ecosystem, the reason to join and be a part of it becomes more compelling. If you are already locked into Apple for whatever reason, Apple Arcade is a no brainer. It is the way mobile gaming should be done, and the integration to the OS makes it a joy to experience. And for anyone not currently working within iOS, Apple Arcade is for some reason enough to switch. It is a compelling offering, and as the library grows towards the goal of 100 games by the end of the year, it just gets more interesting.
If I were Google, Apple Arcade would be something to worry about. With a mix of exclusive and compelling titles, Apple has cemented itself as the place to play mobile games. While there will always be a selection not part of the service, what is in there is fun, exciting and engaging. I look forward to seeing how Apple Arcade grows in the coming months, and welcome support from Apple to help grow and expand the already vibrant indie scene existing in gaming today.