Here at Otakukart, we are expanding our coverage of games and the various platforms they can be found on. Our newest feature will be This Week in Apple Arcade and will look at the most recent releases on the subscription-based platform and get gamers up to speed on previous offerings on the platform. The Apple Arcade is one of the most recent additions to the gaming sphere, having launched on September 19, 2019, for all iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, Apple computers, and the Apple TV, respectively). The subscription-based model offered 60 unique games at launch for one low, monthly price. For interested subscribers, they also offer a free, one-month trial.
The service, still in its infancy, has grown to include over 180 games as of this writing. But is this just another cash grab for the behemoth company, or is there an actual, tangible benefit for gamers?
Additional thoughts flooded my mind as soon as this was announced. I hesitated before finally taking the plunge (once it was included with the other subscriptions I already own) for a litany of pathetic reasons. I was filled with so many tenuous questions, but I feel they were all in an attempt to undermine this feeling of yet another entertainment commitment. Would I even play any of these? That was my initial trepidation. Is this just another monthly expenditure that I would ignore to play my go-to games?
What does Apple Arcade include?
This lead down a lengthy rabbit hole, where I continued to question the many nuances of the system. Are these games simple free-to-play games with a few, free included, micro-transactions? Or are these legitimate games that are going to keep us further tethered to our phones or iOS devices? And is there any legitimacy to this has a viable, sustainable model for other platforms (i.e., Steam and Epic Games Store)?
When Apple originally previewed Apple Arcade, mobile games had a distinct place in the video gaming hierarchy. Most mobile games were either too expensive ($19.99 for a short mobile game), free, but littered with thousands of microtransactions (often with an exuberant item in hopes of a misclick, like the $99.99 in-app purchases we saw littered across YouTube at launch), or they were games meant to pass idle time.
Graphically, there was a distinct difference between console/PC games and glorified Flash games on your phone. As a gamer, it was great to play a game for a short while until you hit that inevitable paywall and then transition to another game for a few weeks without spending any money, but there was nothing of substantiated value in these titles. There was no longevity, no sense of commitment. Some of the larger gaming companies started porting titles over to the phone, but those were usually buggy messes for an exuberant fee that I never cared to experience. But would this endeavor get me to care? Would it change my outlook on the mobile gaming landscape?
With most mobile titles, there was no investment in these worlds, and we delete and download to our heart’s content. Every now and then, most gamers might make a small purchase to support a developer they liked or a game that has really captured their attention, but for the most part, developers were not making much money as gamers hopped from title to title. This led to a new model, where a game starts out by releasing tons of great content for free, and then after a year or so, these offerings dwindle, and the better items are behind paywalls.
Games are a business, and studios do need to make a profit. This leads to more games, more support, and overall a better landscape for all parties involved. Apple has sought to change this and give developers a cut of the profits. Rather than rarely spending money on an app or game, we can pay a flat fee each month, and both gamers and developers benefit and never have to consider paying for games again. Once more, if you have the Apple One subscription, Apple Arcade is included for free. Currently, Apple is charging $4.99 for Apple Arcade, and Apple One costs $14.95 a month (includes Apple Music, Apple tv+, Apple Arcade, and 500 GB of iCloud storage).
With this change to the iOS App Store, should gamers pay attention? Is there enough here to satiate gamers’ needs for action and adventure? We will use this space to review the games launched each week and go back and see if any older titles should be re-explored. When reviewing the current offerings, most of the titles were not free to play previously and had to be purchased for a one-time fee.
What is Included in the Apple Arcade Subscription?
Per Apple’s website, the games included have no ads or ad-tracking, or additional purchases. Apple, in their most recent push to secure your data from pesky data trackers, will not allow developers to track your activity. Apple further goes on to give a rationale behind their pursuits on their website by stating their intention was to create a platform where gamers get great content and developers still get paid. Additionally, Apple isn’t just picking a list of trending games and slapping those in a separate, exclusive store behind a monthly fee, they are assisting with development costs and working right alongside developers to bring these games to their patrons.
These are not trial versions or games that require additional purchases. They even included future updates to the games. Apple has done what it can to change the delivery model, or at the very least, offer gamers an alternative to accessing entertainment. This leads one to believe that maybe Steam would do something similar at $59.99 a month, allowing us to try a number of games for one flat, monthly fee. Consoles are currently serving a similar model to gamers. PlayStation Now offers access to many new and older games, but with some caveats.
Some of the newer games are only available for a few months, but they boast over 800 titles. What’s more, if you do not have a Sony console, you can access PlayStation Now from your PC and stream the games. PlayStation offers a wide range of games, from recent releases, to older games like the original Ratchet and Clank titles. Microsoft offers something similar called Xbox Game Pass, where they offer more than 100 high-quality games, like the new Knockout City, which was a recent release (thanks to their partnership with EA Play, most new EA games are included).
Like Sony’s offering, with the Xbox Ultimate Game Pass (such a horrible, long title) you can play games on your PC as well. Xbox Game Pass offers more games that have been recently released, while Sony is more of a library of sorts, with much more offerings, mainly from older content. Steam and other PC platforms have yet to take this route for providing content, but competition could make for a better landscape for all of us. Yet is this viable? Looking at the PlayStation and Xbox offerings, I wonder how much an all-inclusive pass on Steam would cost? Apple is obviously particular with the titles on their list and hand-selecting titles that further their platform.
Whether you currently have a subscription or are interested in the offerings, be sure to check out Otakukart for the latest reviews and information on upcoming releases for Apple Arcade.