Why Apple Arcade will push mobile gaming in the right direction

Posted:
in General Discussion edited December 2019
Apple Arcade is now in the hands of millions, and is changing the way mobile games are developed and distributed. AppleInsider spoke with game developers to discuss what this means for both mobile game makers, as well as those who play mobile games.

Apple Arcade: Play Extraordinary


Apple Arcade is Apple's subscription-based service that allows users to pay $4.99 a month to have access to a library of games, many exclusive to the service, that they can play on the iPhone, and soon on the iPad, Apple TV, or even macOS.

There are some big advantages to this system. Subscribers will have access to a curated list of games that are guaranteed to have a higher amount of polish than what they may stumble across on their own.

There will also be no advertisements or in-app purchases in any game offered on this service. All downloadable content will also be included within the flat subscription fee as well.





Many of the developers chosen have had no major releases of any kind before the games announced. Breadcrumbs Interactive and Wildboy Studios will be releasing their first games, Yaga and ATONE: Heart of the Elder Tree respectively, to Apple Arcade. This is likely because the games have shown well at gaming conventions and conferences like E3 or Penny Arcade Expo, or PAX, in recent years.

If a game shows well enough at E3 or PAX, it's not uncommon for publishers and platforms to approach the developers for a deal. Apple has likely followed suit, realizing that by scooping up fresh talent they can bring new concepts, narratives, and game play, offering something that larger developers like Sony and Microsoft may take a pass on.

Small studios will surely benefit

Apple Arcade Indies


Nearly every developer we spoke to discussed how difficult it is to develop in the current market. Players on mobile now expect that a game will be free, even if that means an obvious decrease in quality.

To follow that lead that the consumers are setting, most games coming out for smartphones have become freemium or free-to-play out of necessity, often employing "optional" in-app purchases. These purchases are often exploitative by nature, and without them, the games are often slow and difficult, if not near-impossible after a certain point.

Other games have become so riddled with advertisements that it becomes a chore to play them. For a while, it was fairly common for free games to have an in-app purchase available that would allow players to remove ads. In recent years, this has become less common, often replaced by a monthly reoccurring subscription instead.

For a lot of developers, especially those who have developed for console or desktop, this has been a non-option. In-app purchases would make their game feel exploitative and hurt their reputation. Not to mention, developers are often looking to foster a mutually beneficial relationship with players. If a player gives you money, you want to give them a good experience.

Advertisements are also extremely difficult to work into many different types of games. For arcade-style games, it's relatively easy to slip an advertisement between levels or lives. For puzzle games and RPGs, it's less clear. On top of that, advertisements have been often viewed as an indicator of lower quality.






Apple and its partnered developers are trying to change this with Apple Arcade. Instead of charging players $0.99 for your game, you can give them the "free" game they want without the hassle of advertising or in-app purchases, but still have a guaranteed amount of money coming in. And on top of that, it's a great deal for players, too. $4.99 a month is a steal if you're playing more than five games a month, and if you're like us, you've probably already tried several more than that.

Cornfox & Brothers, the studio behind Oceanhorn and now Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm spoke fondly of working with Apple.

"Apple Arcade is a great way to cater to developers who are willing to create meaningful, classic video games," A Cornfox & Brothers spokesperson told AppleInsider. "Being part of Apple Arcade also means that a studio can focus on what's important -- the game -- and be relieved from most financial concerns."

Capybara Games, the studio behind the 2008 best seller Critter Crunch, and now Grindstone on Apple Arcade, has similar warm feelings.

"As a developer it's very rare to have the chance to be a part of something new - to get in on the ground floor of something and help build it. It's even rarer to do that with a company like Apple," says Dan Vader, the director of Grindstone. "It feels really good to get back to developing for Apple devices, and in this case, to work directly with them to launch their new service. The concept of curating premium titles from the coolest creators and serving them to hungry players in what amounts to a Michelin-rated videogame smorgasbord is pretty sound."

Apple presents Apple Arcade at the September 2019 Apple Event
Apple presents Apple Arcade at the September 2019 Apple Event


For many developers, Apple Arcade gives them the chance to develop the games that they want without relying on predatory practices, such as in-app purchases and what can be exploitative loot box mechanics. Desmond Wong, a developer who worked on Cat Quest II, also chimed in.

"It's not a big secret that premium games on mobile are seeing a huge and steady decline in sales. What would have been considered a moderate success in 2017, would be a huge, impossible success now in 2019," said Wong. "So there definitely needs to be a more sustainable way for developers to make a living on mobile, without resorting to [free to play games.]"

"I, personally, think that Apple Arcade is a step in the right direction for how premium games are handled on mobile," added Wong. "It lowers that barrier of entry for most people, and still enables them to enjoy that premium experience. Even if [Apple Arcade] doesn't work out, a change has to be made, because the way things are going, its just going to get worse for premium games if nothing is done."

Wong's feelings were echoed by several developers, including a few who asked to remain anonymous. For small developers, Apple Arcade is a second chance at staying in the mobile development industry. While many developers don't want to say that Apple Arcade is a perfect solution, many believe it's a step in the right direction.

Big studios benefit too

Apple Arcade features big name studios


Of course, it's not just indie developers that have made their way to Apple Arcade. There are some big-name developers in the mix, too. Konami, Lego, and Sega have titles out for Apple Arcade.

There's some mutual benefit to big name studios and publishers bringing titles to Apple Arcade. For Apple, having a developer like Sega or Konami on board will help drive fence-sitters to the service.

For the developers, it helps put their games in hands of people who may not have seen them otherwise. Mobile gaming offers the ability to reach an entirely new audience that many developers haven't been able to reach.

On top of that, mobile games are a great way to take intellectual property in a fun, new direction without worrying too much about style or canon -- when done right. Frogger in Toy Town, developed by Konami, is a great example of this. It's a fresh spin on the 1981 arcade classic Frogger. It still features a lot of the elements of the original, but now gives the players objectives to complete alongside finishing the level.

What we don't want to see is vague handwaving in a franchise's direction like what we got from Super Mario Run and Mario Kart Tour.

Apple Arcade will see more big-name studios show up to the service in the future with these sorts of games, and we're excited to see who shows up.



Games as a subscription service on other platforms

As expected, Google has announced their version of Apple Arcade. Dubbed Google Play Pass, Android users can get a similar experience on their smartphones and Android-based tablets. The service starts at $1.99 a month for a year, then bumps up to $4.99 a month after. Like Apple Arcade, Android users can share their Play Pass with up to 5 other family members.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of this is Google rushing to play catch up with Apple. Because they had to rush, many of the games in Google Play Pass are older paid games, such as Monument Valley 2. This means that the odds are pretty high that someone has already played many of the titles available.

As of right now, it's not clear if games will rotate out of Apple Arcade. Google Play Pass, however, warns that titles may rotate out, similar to how shows rotate out of Netflix.

A somewhat surprising difference between the two has surfaced-- Google Play Pass doesn't only include games, but also apps. AccuWeather, for example, is available ad free and fully unlocked on Google Play Pass. AccuWeather is available on the App Store, but requires a $3.99 in-app purchase to remove the integrated advertising. It will be interesting to see if Apple reaches out to software developers to create exclusive apps for Apple Arcade, or if they choose to put all their metaphorical eggs in the mobile gaming basket.

Both services are likely to change over the next few months, based on player feedback and influence and pressure from each other. As of right now eliminating hardware differences and focusing on gaming only, Apple Arcade seems to be the better service. Apple has been developing Apple Arcade for quite some time, and the developers who they're working with are hopeful that the service can help bring back quality control and innovation to mobile gaming.


AppleInsider will be covering Apple Arcade information as it releases. Make sure to follow us on YouTube, Twitter @appleinsider, Facebook and Instagram.
applesnoranges
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 21
    DeathDeath Posts: 7unconfirmed, member
    Google wouldn't benefit much from Play pass as subscriptions are hard bite for android users generally
    racerhomie3lkruppviclauyycmejsriclolliverp-dogjahbladen2itivguyEsquireCatswatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 21
    If a company that provides free games to users NOT through Apple Arcade, will their software be able to detect and report back to the company whether the user has subscribed to Apple Arcade? This could be a critical factor in getting companies to choose to use Apple Arcade. If the company can see that 50% of all users are subscribed to Apple Arcade, they may decide to provide a copy of their game through that service. In fact if the number was 90% they could probably just cancel support for the non-Arcade version and most customers would remain happy.

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 21
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 9,233member
    If a company that provides free games to users NOT through Apple Arcade, will their software be able to detect and report back to the company whether the user has subscribed to Apple Arcade?

    That sounds like it would be a violation of privacy and very un Apple like.

    If somebody downloads a random game, of course that developer has no business in knowing if the user is subscribed to Apple Arcade or not. That information has nothing to do with them, that's between Apple and the user.
    StrangeDaysn2itivguywatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 21
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 9,233member
    As for Apple Arcade, I haven't tried it yet, because I'm waiting until it's released for the Mac, so that I'll be able to try it out on all of my devices at the same time, and switch between them. I guess it'll be coming soon when Catalina is released.
    edited September 2019 gregoriusmwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 21
    As long term Apple an I am glad when company is doing well and their products are used but I not one who thinks that technology makes our life better. It makes it just comfortable. Can you imagine how our world would look like when we all, me including even not gaming, spent time with our loved ones instead our gizmos, or with even random people on street or do any voluntary things for better world. There is no good direction Apple can push gaming market. It is not that long when there came news that 200 scientist were working 10 years on getting first pic of black hole. Hmmmm. When they would research renewable energy sources we would have solar panels with 90% efficiency, longstanding batteries, clear water across the globe, enough food ..... You do not need to react, just think about it. Save that time and send some prayer for Earth.
    applesnoranges
  • Reply 6 of 21
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,756member
    Is it really a case of “Players on mobile now expect that a game will be free”? Or is it more a case of mobile Developers expect an immediate return on investment?  What happened to selling a product on something other than price? Is ‘easy come, easy go’ really the path to commercial success?
    FileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 21
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,262administrator
    mcdave said:
    Is it really a case of “Players on mobile now expect that a game will be free”? Or is it more a case of mobile Developers expect an immediate return on investment?  What happened to selling a product on something other than price? Is ‘easy come, easy go’ really the path to commercial success?
    An immediate return on investment is, literally, users paying for the game up front, as opposed to trickling lootboxes and IAP out over years and hoping you get $60 or so per user out over time.

    So, I'd say it really is that case, yes.
    edited September 2019 CloudTalkinfastasleepn2itivguywatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 21
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,174member
    As expected, Google has announced their version of Apple Arcade. Dubbed Google Play Pass, Android users can get a similar experience on their smartphones and Android-based tablets. The service starts at $1.99 a month for a year, then bumps up to $4.99 a month after. Like Apple Arcade, Android users can share their Play Pass with up to 5 other family members.

    Unsurprisingly, a lot of this is Google rushing to play catch up with Apple. 
    Two things: Google has been working on Play Pass for quite some time.  In fact it's been public knowledge within the press since October of 2018, and reported at XDA back in June of 2018, 16 months ago which means Google was developing Play pass well before then. 
    That's hardly "rushed". 
    https://www.tomsguide.com/us/google-play-android-app-subscriptions,news-28400.html

    Second: IMO Play Pass is not intended as "Google's answer to Apple Arcade". Games are but one segment of the apps included in the Play Pass subscription. There are utility apps, photo apps, weather, organizational...
    In truth Arcade might be what Apple came up with once both Google's Stadia gaming ambitions and separate plans for an app subscription service became known. Seems just as likely. 

    It's perfectly good to talk about the great value of Apple Arcade to the casual gamer.  It is. There should really be better research done before including claims in the same article that Google is simply following them.  They're not. 
    edited September 2019 bigtdsmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 9 of 21
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,471member
    Death said:
    Google wouldn't benefit much from Play pass as subscriptions are hard bite for android users generally
    Yep. If Apple users here are apoplectic over subscription software just imagine what Android users must think.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 21
    mike1mike1 Posts: 2,754member
    I might have missed this, but how do developers get paid though Arcade?
    Do they get a fixed amount each month from all the subscription dollars? Do they get paid based on the amount of plays or time each game is played?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 21
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,174member
    mike1 said:
    I might have missed this, but how do developers get paid though Arcade?
    Do they get a fixed amount each month from all the subscription dollars? Do they get paid based on the amount of plays or time each game is played?
    Apple has not said AFAIK. 
  • Reply 12 of 21
    Quick tip for Apple Arcade use: make sure you're signed in to both iCloud and Game Center before playing games. Game saves won't show up across all of your devices without doing that. Might seem obvious to some, but I don't log into Game Center that often when using App Store games and made that mistake when I first started using Apple Arcade.

    So far, I really like how everything has worked. Oceanhorn 2 has been a good test for graphic differences since it's using the Unreal Engine. The A8 performance with the 4th gen ATV is pretty much what I expected: simpler lighting, lower-res textures, lower polygon count for some things, more pop-in for objects as you run around. It still looks good relative to other ATV games I've played. A9X on my iPad Pro is a significant jump up graphically and in many ways is difficult to tell the difference vs. the A12 on my iPhone XS. The A12 is more about extra touches and polish for the experience like heat distortion when using bombs/fire spells + really high end lighting effects. Some of my inability to tell as much difference between those two versions may be due to the smaller screen on the iPhone. For example, differences in detail present in draw distance can't really be done.
    edited September 2019 jahbladewatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 21
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,262administrator
    gatorguy said:
    As expected, Google has announced their version of Apple Arcade. Dubbed Google Play Pass, Android users can get a similar experience on their smartphones and Android-based tablets. The service starts at $1.99 a month for a year, then bumps up to $4.99 a month after. Like Apple Arcade, Android users can share their Play Pass with up to 5 other family members.

    Unsurprisingly, a lot of this is Google rushing to play catch up with Apple. 
    Two things: Google has been working on Play Pass for quite some time.  In fact it's been public knowledge within the press since October of 2018, and reported at XDA back in June of 2018, 16 months ago which means Google was developing Play pass well before then. 
    That's hardly "rushed". 
    https://www.tomsguide.com/us/google-play-android-app-subscriptions,news-28400.html

    Second: IMO Play Pass is not intended as "Google's answer to Apple Arcade". Games are but one segment of the apps included in the Play Pass subscription. There are utility apps, photo apps, weather, organizational...
    In truth Arcade might be what Apple came up with once both Google's Stadia gaming ambitions and separate plans for an app subscription service became known. Seems just as likely. 

    It's perfectly good to talk about the great value of Apple Arcade to the casual gamer.  It is. There should really be better research done before including claims in the same article that Google is simply following them.  They're not. 
    You left out the rest of the quote from the article about apps being included. Read two more paragraphs down in the article.

    Project Yeti from Google (Stadia) was known in 2016. The first rumor about an Apple Arcade-like deal is from 2014. We can go around and around on this all night, if you want. 

    Also, it's fantastic that Google had this in mind for some time, as evidenced by the Yeti rumors. However, the timing of actual release of the app subscription is a bit suspicious, considering that they had those 18 months+ to work on it, no?
    edited September 2019 fastasleepjahbladeEsquireCatswatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 21
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,262administrator

    gatorguy said:
    mike1 said:
    I might have missed this, but how do developers get paid though Arcade?
    Do they get a fixed amount each month from all the subscription dollars? Do they get paid based on the amount of plays or time each game is played?
    Apple has not said AFAIK. 
    Apple has not said, and all the developers we talked to pointed to a very large non-disclose section in a contract.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 21
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,174member
    gatorguy said:
    As expected, Google has announced their version of Apple Arcade. Dubbed Google Play Pass, Android users can get a similar experience on their smartphones and Android-based tablets. The service starts at $1.99 a month for a year, then bumps up to $4.99 a month after. Like Apple Arcade, Android users can share their Play Pass with up to 5 other family members.

    Unsurprisingly, a lot of this is Google rushing to play catch up with Apple. 
    Two things: Google has been working on Play Pass for quite some time.  In fact it's been public knowledge within the press since October of 2018, and reported at XDA back in June of 2018, 16 months ago which means Google was developing Play pass well before then. 
    That's hardly "rushed". 
    https://www.tomsguide.com/us/google-play-android-app-subscriptions,news-28400.html

    Second: IMO Play Pass is not intended as "Google's answer to Apple Arcade". Games are but one segment of the apps included in the Play Pass subscription. There are utility apps, photo apps, weather, organizational...
    In truth Arcade might be what Apple came up with once both Google's Stadia gaming ambitions and separate plans for an app subscription service became known. Seems just as likely. 

    It's perfectly good to talk about the great value of Apple Arcade to the casual gamer.  It is. There should really be better research done before including claims in the same article that Google is simply following them.  They're not. 
    You left out the rest of the quote from the article about apps being included. Read two more paragraphs down in the article.

    Project Yeti from Google (Stadia) was known in 2016. The first rumor about an Apple Arcade-like deal is from 2014. We can go around and around on this all night, if you want. 

    Also, it's fantastic that Google had this in mind for some time, as evidenced by the Yeti rumors. However, the timing of actual release of the app subscription is a bit suspicious, considering that they had those 18 months+ to work on it, no?
    Never saw anything in 2014 about "Apple Arcade", not that it matters. In any event seems clear enough that Google wasn't "rushing Play Pass" as an answer to Apple Arcade since a dig into Google app store code revealed it was on the way well over 16 months ago. I'd assume we both agree on that.

    As for timing if Apple has really had 6 years to perfect Apple Arcade then finally being ready to reveal it after Google Stadia was announced was certainly fortuitous timing too. 

    I wouldn't go so far as to claim Apple's gaming plans were influenced by Google since I'd have no factual idea and just pointing out that there doesn't seem to be evidence that Google's plans were influenced by Apple either, and certainly not rushed. 

    Not trying to be argumentative at all. IMO the release of Google Play Pass would have happened whether Apple did anything in the same space or not. It was not "Google's answer...", nor does it have be spy vs. spy. 

    Figured whoever wrote the article just wasn't aware Play Pass has been under active planning and development for a couple of years and Stadia (Yeti) even longer.  If they had researched a bit more it might have changed the way it was framed. 
    edited September 2019 bigtdslkrupp
  • Reply 16 of 21
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 5,691member
    frantisek said:
    As long term Apple an I am glad when company is doing well and their products are used but I not one who thinks that technology makes our life better. It makes it just comfortable. Can you imagine how our world would look like when we all, me including even not gaming, spent time with our loved ones instead our gizmos, or with even random people on street or do any voluntary things for better world. There is no good direction Apple can push gaming market. It is not that long when there came news that 200 scientist were working 10 years on getting first pic of black hole. Hmmmm. When they would research renewable energy sources we would have solar panels with 90% efficiency, longstanding batteries, clear water across the globe, enough food ..... You do not need to react, just think about it. Save that time and send some prayer for Earth.
    Cool story. Most of us live in a reality where gaming has a 5000+ year history and most people do other things as well, such as items in your  random list of things that are not gaming. Entertainment is not antithetical to bettering our lives or the world in general.
    n2itivguywatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 21
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 2,246member
    When I first got my iPhone, I was downloading all kinds of games.  I didn't have a problem just paying for great games.  Now it's just mostly FREEMIUM crap!!!  Games like Real Racing, the original was great, and then they came out with the next version which was Freemium, and it stunk because of it.  This is the case with many of the games.  The Orignal was great and fun to play, and then the next version turned into freemium crap.  It's just not fun.  So my game downloads have greatly dropped to almost nothing.

    So I'm playing the old Original versions so long as they continue to work and my game list shrinks.  So this Arcade I think is the greatest thing.  I may never download a game outside Arcade ever again.  There are still a few games that haven't gone the freemium route yet that I still download and I may still grab new versions down the road so long as they aren't freemium.  I don't have a problem paying $4.99, or even $9.99 or more for a great game.

    I do think Apple caused a lot of this.  Because there's really been no DEMO version.  Try before you buy.  You would just have to fork out your money first and then see if you liked it after.  With Freemium you can download and play to a point and then too get anywhere you start dropping more and more and more money as it gets impossible to get anywhere without doing that.  They end up making a lot of money.   I think people are getting tired of this crap, as I know I am.  Do they can continue with that freemium garbage and I'll stick with Arcade. So many great games that turned into freemium crap.
    gatorguyFileMakerFellern2itivguymuthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 21
    Bunk. A smart phone is not a great platform for anything other than casual gaming. If you want to see a truly next generation mobile gaming platform, try wearing an Oculus Quest. The Quest is pushing mobile gaming in the right direction: A really big immersive gaming experience on a small screen that you can play anywhere. Sure it still has a ways to go but this is where Apple could really innovate to make VR/AR gaming smaller, lighter and better.
    edited October 2019 Metriacanthosaurus
  • Reply 19 of 21
    jbdragon said:
    When I first got my iPhone, I was downloading all kinds of games.  I didn't have a problem just paying for great games.  Now it's just mostly FREEMIUM crap!!!  Games like Real Racing, the original was great, and then they came out with the next version which was Freemium, and it stunk because of it.  This is the case with many of the games.  The Orignal was great and fun to play, and then the next version turned into freemium crap.  It's just not fun.  So my game downloads have greatly dropped to almost nothing.

    So I'm playing the old Original versions so long as they continue to work and my game list shrinks.  So this Arcade I think is the greatest thing.  I may never download a game outside Arcade ever again.  There are still a few games that haven't gone the freemium route yet that I still download and I may still grab new versions down the road so long as they aren't freemium.  I don't have a problem paying $4.99, or even $9.99 or more for a great game.

    I do think Apple caused a lot of this.  Because there's really been no DEMO version.  Try before you buy.  You would just have to fork out your money first and then see if you liked it after.  With Freemium you can download and play to a point and then too get anywhere you start dropping more and more and more money as it gets impossible to get anywhere without doing that.  They end up making a lot of money.   I think people are getting tired of this crap, as I know I am.  Do they can continue with that freemium garbage and I'll stick with Arcade. So many great games that turned into freemium crap.
    It is not this complicated, or mysterious.

    Mobile Games have proven to be infinitely more profitable with the Freemium model. It is a form of legalized gambling, that generates tons of revenue. Several times more than would ever be earned by putting a game out there for $9.99. We know, because this was tried first, and did poorly. Very poorly by comparison.

    There is no walking back on a model that is infinitely more profitable than any other.

    Apple Arcade is proof of that. In order to try and change the landscape, Apple had to make it their own project and subsidize the development and spearhead all of the advertising and discovery. And the result: Nothing to write home about. A bunch of terrible games that look like proof-of-concept tech demos for iOS 3. This will do nothing to change Mobile gaming, but will give Apple yet another services revenue stream to pad their numbers with.

  • Reply 20 of 21
    EsquireCatsEsquireCats Posts: 1,188member

    gatorguy said:
    mike1 said:
    I might have missed this, but how do developers get paid though Arcade?
    Do they get a fixed amount each month from all the subscription dollars? Do they get paid based on the amount of plays or time each game is played?
    Apple has not said AFAIK. 
    Apple has not said, and all the developers we talked to pointed to a very large non-disclose section in a contract.
    While we don't know the terms, you can make a few solid assumptions based on Apple appearing in the credits of many of the games. (Usually billed last as "Produced by Apple.")

    If I was to guess, I'd say there was an initial lump sum payment, some access to Apple's software engineering team, and a recurring monthly retainer with sweetners based on performance metrics. The contracts would also likely contain provisions for more than one title. E.g. multi-year development contracts.
    watto_cobra
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