Apple doesn't care about games, long-time Apple Arcade developers say

Posted:
in iOS

Game developers are expressing frustration about Apple Arcade, as payments plummet and projects get axed by Apple's leadership.

Apple Arcade
Apple Arcade



As an all-you-can-eat model, Apple Arcade offers developers a way to create games without relying on players opening up their wallets. However, in the years since its introduction, developers are getting worried about it, with one describing Apple Arcade as having the "smell of death."

Developer sources of MobileGamer.Biz said that initial upfront payments from Apple were generous at launch, and that most games released in the opening years were profitable from the first day. Numerous developers were positive about the service, making the development of premium games on mobile more viable.

As time rolled on, the cracks began to appear in the relationship between developers and Apple itself. In October 2020, the per-play "bonus pool" payments started to reduce, followed by the cancellation of multiple projects in Spring 2021.

Ending many projects upset "a lot of people," one source claimed, but it signaled a strategy shift for the service to family-friendly games with major IP attached to it.

Messaging and payment issues



In one case, a studio had months of glowing feedback from Apple for a game, but then the Apple Arcade team withdrew interest without warning, due to a change in strategy. The team also reportedly declined to respond to emails from the studio offering budgetary changes and a retooling of the game.

The issues with messaging was also a problem for other developers, including where Arcade was actually headed in the future. "I got the sense they didn't really know where they were going with it at all - almost like they weren't sure if they'd have jobs at the end of it," a studio chief admitted.

The upfront payments have also gone down even more for new Apple Arcade titles, as well as the "bonus pool" payments. "We're going to see that amount and decrease and decrease and decrease until it's pennies," a developer insisted, with further reductions reducing the viability of making an Apple Arcade game.

Developers are also confused as to why the payments are going down, because Apple has avoided explaining how the payments are calculated.

A "qualifying session" is used as a basis for bonus pool payments, but developers don't actually know what the qualifying session is. "It has something to do with if the game was launched, how long the player played it for, and how often they return, but it's a black box really," a source explained.

App Store games released to Apple Arcade under "App Store Greats" don't get an upfront payment but do receive bonus pool payments. This does benefit games with longer retention terms, but shorter narrative-driven games and premium indie titles don't stand much of a chance under such a release.

Marketing woes



Developers also believe it's hard to get much marketing help from Apple when they're included in Apple Arcade. "We have to basically beg for featuring from Apple" within the Arcade tab, one developer said.

"Getting that banner featuring at the top is like squeezing blood from a stone."

A source also said getting Apple to help with marketing is difficult and time-consuming. "As with all things Apple, it's a six-week lead time ton get, you know, a single tweet or whatever."

Another reboot?



While it has already undergone one reboot in 2021, developers believe that Apple Arcade could undergo another one, thanks to some competition from Netflix.

Netflix's gaming service also offers generous upfront payments, but not ongoing bonus payments. Though willing to spend hugely now, there is the fear that a similar drying up of funds could occur down the road.

However, developers do say Netflix is apparently much easier to work with compared to Apple.

"I really hope Netflix continues doing what they're doing because it is requiring Apple to continue to try to be relevant and competitive," a source hopes.

The lack of progress is also thought to be down to Apple's leadership, a studio chief said, believing there's a lack of gaming passion at the executive level.

"It all depends on how much buy-in there is from those guys at the top, and I don't think they really value Arcade or invest in it the same way you see them invest in music or TV," they offered.



Read on AppleInsider

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 30
    AAPL needs to bring more innovative ideas here. 
    Their games are just childish.. 

    Nothing what I would play longer than 2 days... 
    napoleon_phoneapartneoncatOferwilliamlondonblastdoorbyronldewmeelijahgwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 30
    Shame. I really like the Apple Arcade concept. It took me a long while to realize the games on there don’t have micro transactions.


    I’m looking forward to Polytopia coming out soon.


    Apple Arcade is a great idea and at the moment it was really lame games. It makes sense that developers aren’t making ROI and opting to go it alone instead. But with annoying, but revenue generating, micro transactions. 
    williamlondonbyronlelijahgwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 30
    chasmchasm Posts: 3,290member
    AAPL needs to bring more innovative ideas here. 
    Their games are just childish.. 

    Nothing what I would play longer than 2 days... 
    Apple Arcade is not aimed at competitive gamers like teens and adults.

    It is aimed squarely at the casual game market that made it king of mobile gaming. In particular, Apple aims Arcade at families with children.

    This is why there’s no IAP, no ads, and no subscriptions. It’s a **child safe** gaming environment that has a handful of games adult casual gamers would enjoy. You are barking up the VERY wrong tree looking for “serious gamer” titles.
    foregoneconclusionwilliamlondondanoxbaconstangmacxpresstmaymuthuk_vanalingamdewmewatto_cobrarue
  • Reply 4 of 30
    Perhaps this is more a symptom of modern games absolutely SUCKING ASS compared to older ones and people just don't wanna play your stuff???
    elijahgwatto_cobrarue
  • Reply 5 of 30
    In January AI reported that Apple Arcade had a monthly user base that was on par with Steam and double what services like GeForce Now have.
    williamlondonJapheybyronlwatto_cobrarue
  • Reply 6 of 30
    They should have made an exclusive deal with Nintendo, port all Nintendo games to M series devices and Nintendo get a great deal on M chips for the switch 2.
    williamlondonbyronlwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 30
    lmaclmac Posts: 206member
    Apple should run each division like its own company. Then they might be more interested in some of their projects that aren't as high profile.
    williamlondonbyronlelijahgwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 30
    OferOfer Posts: 239unconfirmed, member
    Yeah, Apple keeps paying lip service to how they’re dedicated to gaming. But when it comes to actual actions that make sense, they really don’t follow up.
    williamlondonneoncatelijahgwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 30
    Apple is so godd**n stupid with their “gaming efforts”. Here you have a full fledged service in the middle of the App Store - the only App Store on iOS tvOS and iPadOS - along with announcements and grandstanding of how console level games can be played on their newest hardware. WHY AREN’T MORE AAA GAMES MAKING IT TO ARCADE???? Why aren’t Apple TVs being made with it in mind??? Why didn’t they try to get games like RE4 and Death Stranding on the service?? Arcade has the infrastructure and hardware it needs to be a mainstream Steam, but Apple just has their heads up their asses when it comes to reaching the potential of their services in general. They need to do better.
    edited February 26 williamlondonStrangeDayselijahgwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 30
    jgreg728 said:
    Apple is so godd**n stupid with their “gaming efforts”. Here you have a full fledged service in the middle of the App Store - the only App Store on iOS tvOS and iPadOS - along with announcements and grandstanding of how console level games can be played on their newest hardware. WHY AREN’T MORE AAA GAMES MAKING IT TO ARCADE???? Why aren’t Apple TVs being made with it in mind??? Why didn’t they try to get games like RE4 and Death Stranding on the service?? Arcade has the infrastructure and hardware it needs to be a mainstream Steam, but Apple just has their heads up their asses when it comes to reaching the potential of their services in general. They need to do better.
    See Chasm's post above...
    byronlwatto_cobrarue
  • Reply 11 of 30
    Apple doesn't care about games? Funny, neither do I. Probably different if I was about 60 years younger...
    iOS_Guy80watto_cobrarue
  • Reply 12 of 30
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 15,320moderator
    In January AI reported that Apple Arcade had a monthly user base that was on par with Steam and double what services like GeForce Now have.
    This site reported roughly 30m subs in the US based on a survey (potentially 60m worldwide):

    https://www.midiaresearch.com/blog/for-years-we-said-to-take-games-efforts-of-these-companies-seriously-now-they-are-serious-players

    Nintendo, Steam, Geforce Now and Arcade have different revenue models though.
    For Nintendo, people buy the games and pay for the sub on top so for 5 popular games (10m units each), people pay $60 x 5 x 10m + $4/month x 30m = $3.1b.
    For Geforce Now (plays Steam games), people do the same so for 5 games, $60 x 5 x 10m = $3b to different game devs, $11/month x 30m = $330m/month to Nvidia.
    For Apple Arcade, it's $7/month for everything so $7/month x 30m = $210m/month split between Apple and devs. It can work out to be a fair bit lower revenue vs the others.

    Microsoft Game Pass has around 30m subs too and they charge $10-17/month for everything, like Arcade. They reportedly make around $3b/year revenue and spend $1b/year on acquiring game licenses for the service.

    Apple's revenue shouldn't be far off Game Pass but on mobile, the most popular games don't change much over years so they take the bulk of the revenue all the time.

    $2.5b/year revenue is divided by 200 games on Arcade. If Apple takes 30%, 70% divided by 200 games should be $8.7m per game but the engagement can be 100x higher on a popular game vs unpopular so the top 10 out of 200 games might get 30% of the revenue ($75m/year each) and bottom 10, 0.3% ($750k/year) of the revenue. From the developer comments, it's probably even more skewed, the top 100 App Store games (out of over 2 million) take over 60% of the revenue.

    This is quite common with the games industry where low-budget/indie games get squeezed for revenue and have to close studios.

    https://tech4gamers.com/game-studios-shut-down-2023/

    One of the closed studios in that link released this game (2600 ratings):
    https://store.steampowered.com/app/742420/Saints_Row/
    https://www.pushsquare.com/news/2023/02/saints-row-sales-flop-forces-parent-company-to-change-its-policy-on-new-games

    Compare to one of the most successful games last year released at the same time (500,000 ratings):
    https://store.steampowered.com/app/1086940/Baldurs_Gate_3/
    jgreg728 said:
    Apple is so godd**n stupid with their “gaming efforts”. Here you have a full fledged service in the middle of the App Store - the only App Store on iOS tvOS and iPadOS - along with announcements and grandstanding of how console level games can be played on their newest hardware. WHY AREN’T MORE AAA GAMES MAKING IT TO ARCADE???? Why aren’t Apple TVs being made with it in mind??? Why didn’t they try to get games like RE4 and Death Stranding on the service?? Arcade has the infrastructure and hardware it needs to be a mainstream Steam, but Apple just has their heads up their asses when it comes to reaching the potential of their services in general. They need to do better.
    Games like RE4 are expensive to make and it's new so it makes more selling standalone, same way movies make more in the cinema than on streaming. RE4 sold over 6m copies at $60 = $360m:

    https://www.eurogamer.net/resident-evil-4-remake-becomes-series-fastest-selling-entry-now-sold-64m

    Apple Arcade is $7/month x 30m subs = $210m/month. If it had 5% of the engagement out of 200 games, they'd make $14m/month. Standalone sales on Mac could be 1m units = $60m.

    If the engagement held up over time, it's worthwhile but not worth the risk when it's new. Microsoft Game Pass doesn't have RE4 either, just the older 2 and 3 and on PC this is on the higher $17/month tier:

    https://www.xbox.com/en-US/xbox-game-pass/games#pcgames

    Of course Apple could pay ~$100m for big games and they probably wouldn't lose much on it. Especially if the games work on Mac too.

    It sounds like it may not be the Arcade service underperforming but that Apple is trying to pivot the service to more premium, high quality titles from big developers like NBA, Disney Dreamlight Valley, Hello Kitty, Sonic, Football Manager:

    https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2023/11/8-new-games-and-more-than-50-updates-coming-to-apple-arcade-this-holiday-season/

    The higher engagement with bigger budget titles will massively reduce the share for lower end titles. Maybe they can introduce a revenue floor if they don't have one so that lower-end devs get something for the effort e.g allocate 5% of revenue evenly across all titles on the service then 95% based on engagement.

    I'm sure Apple knows that investing in big budget games is the way to drive subscriptions just like big budget movies for Apple TV+ and inevitably lower tier studios will get less support as a result.
    williamlondonforegoneconclusionam8449dewmeelijahgwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 30
    At several events, Apple has shown demos of AMAZING (graphically, anyway) games. With their chips getting faster with every iteration and having baked-in Ray Tracing, they are definitely targeting the big-time game studios. From the independent studios and Disney being all in on the Vision Pro, I have to believe better games are on their way. It might just be the big studios aren't interested in billions of new users……like that's even possible, so there must be something else going on behind the scenes like Apple wanting either too much control or money. 

    With gaming being so popular, you'd think that an organization that employs nearly 200,000 people would have a dedicated division working to make AAA games happen. Apple wants to be involved in pretty much everythinng tech, so what's really happening with this games debacle?
    williamlondondanoxbyronlelijahgwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 30
    entropysentropys Posts: 4,162member
    Back when Microsoft was working its own games console called the Xbox, it decided it needed some really cool games to drive adoption.  There was this innovative company called bungie that had created a great Mac only game called Marathon that wa head and shoulders above the   most popular PC game, Doom.
    at a Macworld convention, Steve Job showcased Bungie’s next effort, a Mac only, ground breaking game called Halo.  Microsoft liked it so much they bought Bungie lock, stock and barrel and made Halo only available on its new Xbox.

    That is what Apple has to do to drive games on its platforms, to create a Halo to drive other game developers to also want to be on the platform. I don’t think it wants to.
    edited February 26 blastdoorelijahgwilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 30
    I've said it before and I'll say it again, Apple is focusing on the wrong platform. Trying to break into the PC/console market is going to be hard and expensive. The Mac just isn't viewed as a viable gaming platform to PC and console players/devs but the mobile a whole other story. It already has a large player base and lots of great games that make an obscene amount of money each month. If Apple made it easier to port games from iOS to tvOS/macOS it could market it's other devices to those gamers.

    Which do you think is going to be the more successful pitch:

    "Hello PC/console players and devs, you should consider playing on a Mac. We have lots of great games and the we keep getting more!"

    or

    "Hey, mobile players, you know how you like to play Genshin/Nikke/Wuthering Waves on your iPhone or iPad? Did you know that you can also play them on your Apple TV or Mac? And because you use your Apple ID you can seamlessly move between devices. If you think games look good on a phone or table they're gonna look even better on a Mac!"

    I would kill to play Genshin Impact or Honkai Star Rail on my Apple TV 😫
    elijahgwilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 30
    chasm said:
    AAPL needs to bring more innovative ideas here. 
    Their games are just childish.. 

    Nothing what I would play longer than 2 days... 
    Apple Arcade is not aimed at competitive gamers like teens and adults.

    It is aimed squarely at the casual game market that made it king of mobile gaming. In particular, Apple aims Arcade at families with children.

    This is why there’s no IAP, no ads, and no subscriptions. It’s a **child safe** gaming environment that has a handful of games adult casual gamers would enjoy. You are barking up the VERY wrong tree looking for “serious gamer” titles.

    Sorry. For me, the growth and financial performance are more important. So, AAPL has more rooms to grow by bringing ads, subscriptions, IAP. 
    AAPL should consider them as their growth is lagging and far behind in contrast to other tech companies.
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 30
    Perhaps this is more a symptom of modern games absolutely SUCKING ASS compared to older ones and people just don't wanna play your stuff???
    Agree. These games developers think they are important but so many games are lookalikes. Nothing to see here.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 30
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 3,272member
    chasm said:
    AAPL needs to bring more innovative ideas here. 
    Their games are just childish.. 

    Nothing what I would play longer than 2 days... 
    Apple Arcade is not aimed at competitive gamers like teens and adults.

    It is aimed squarely at the casual game market that made it king of mobile gaming. In particular, Apple aims Arcade at families with children.

    This is why there’s no IAP, no ads, and no subscriptions. It’s a **child safe** gaming environment that has a handful of games adult casual gamers would enjoy. You are barking up the VERY wrong tree looking for “serious gamer” titles.
    Pixar (in its heyday) made movies aimed at children that adults also loved. That’s the sweet spot. If Appla Arcade were to gaming what Pixar was to movies, that would be great. But that’s not what it is. Apple Arcade is more like 1970s Disney. 


    byronlelijahgwilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 30
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 3,272member
    In terms of hardware and software, Apple has done a good job of making steady progress in supporting games. And Apple does make money off of their cut from game IAPs on the iPhone (an unsavory but profitable business.)

    But to take gaming to the next level, especially the Mac, Apple needs to take a “whatever it takes” attitude to getting better games. They need to make the same level of commitment to games that they’ve made to content on ATV+, if they want to reach their full potential. 
    muthuk_vanalingamwilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 30
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 3,272member
    lmac said:
    Apple should run each division like its own company. Then they might be more interested in some of their projects that aren't as high profile.
    Apple was run that way before Steve Jobs returned and put them on a single P&L statement. I’m not saying that every single thing Apple did without SJ was bad or that SJ was right about everything. But this was and is something that goes to the core of apples structure and culture. To change this means changing Apple into a fundamentally different company. Maybe that will make sense someday as part of a fundamental restructuring of Apple. But it doesn’t make sense as a way to do better in computer games.
    byronlelijahgwilliamlondonwatto_cobra
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