Apple has a habit of “innovating” and creating things that basically already existed in some form. This is rarely a bad thing though, as its, ahem, brave antics have certainly helped increase the attentiveness of the rest of the industry. In this case, Apple has gone and created a subscription service for games, that it has given the moniker Apple Arcade. The PlayStation Plus-style service will see players getting licenses for games as long as they stay subscribed, and will be able to download the full game and continue playing offline, so a plane journey won’t be interrupting your gameplay. But while its easy to criticize the electronics giant, the Apple Arcade will be good for developers, gamers, and the industry.
What Apple has shown so far has been incredibly promising. Stellar developers and publishers signing on board, including legendary game designers Hironobu Sakaguchi of Final Fantasy fame, and Will “Sims” Wright. If Mistwalker’s new Fantasian isn’t enough to get you interested, then games made by the brains behind Monument Valley, Alto’s Adventure, and even Bayonetta might get your attention. A single subscription service that can bring you brand new games from all of these celebrated developers should immediately have your attention, and that doesn’t even scratch the surface of Apple Arcade’s potential.
Money, money, money
Monetization is one of the key problems that face both developers and gamers alike on the App Store and Play Store. While on the Nintendo Switch or PlayStation 4, paying out a portion of your wages to play a game is expected and accepted by the community, mobile gamers do not like having to pay for their mobile games. Just take a look at the reviews section under the higher-priced premium titles on either of the larger mobile stores, and you’ll see a subsection of the community enraged by being asked to pay $20 for a 15-hour game, even if that game is available on other consoles for double the price.
But of course, developers need to get paid somehow. And so often, they have to take one of two choices. One of those is by included ads in exchange for a small amount of premium currency, a free revive, a reward doubler, and banner ads during loading screens — just because. To say these can frustrate the play experience is an understatement, but at the same time, it’s hard to argue against when you’ve been given a free game. Though, it also means the game has been built with ads in mind, and how they might impact the gameplay.
And no monetization tactic is worse when it comes to fundamentally change the design of a game than in-app purchases. If you’ve played any of the dozens of free-to-play RPGs on mobile, then you’ll be fully aware of how in-app purchases devastate an in-game economy. Difficulty scales up when you believe you’re only halfway through the game, and advancing your party is often locked behind earning multiple cards or items from loot boxes, which will be difficult for you to earn, unless you’re paying up.
Progression in these kinds of games slows to a crawl when you advance to the later stages, and it’s a devious, purposeful act. The developers suck you in with a fun gameplay loop, then restrict any enjoyment you can get without paying up real money. The studios certainly deserve to get paid, but by holding progress hostage until you pay the ransom money doesn’t sit well.
With Apple Arcade, those skilled developers can actually make premium-quality games and rest assured that they’ll be paid, and gamers will actually get to play their products. Developers involved have already stated that this helps them release games in a financially safe, sustainable way, and given the talent Apple has attracted, the deals they’re offering must be worthwhile for experienced games studios.
Of course, the more obvious benefit it gives is to gamers. Instead of having to wade through dozens of poorly monetized games that impact your enjoyment, you can have a single subscription to Apple Arcade, and rest assured that you will be playing some of the best games available on mobile. You can always still go back to those free-to-play money grabbers if you want some cheap thrills, but Apple Arcade can be where you go to play those genuinely unique and interesting mobile titles.
And not only that, but it could also introduce competition. It would be wonderful to have Google step up to the plate, and compete with Apple when it comes to the Apple Arcade, providing users with an alternative that can stand toe-to-toe on price, if not also on quality. After all, Apple tends to “innovate,” which pushes the rest of the industry forward. We can only hope that with this latest innovation, mobile will become a better place for quality games than ever.