Apple Gets Games with Apple Arcade Subscription Service

As part of Apple's major content subscription announcements today, one category that raised more questions than answers is the company's announcement of Apple Arcade.  Unlike the Stadia game streaming service announced by Google earlier this month, Apple Arcade consists of original game content that can be downloaded and played offline when designed accordingly by the game creators. Like Stadia, gamers can pick up immediately where they left off on whatever device has the game installed.

Apple is even investing in participating game studio development costs much as they do in other audio video content such, as the variety of shows announced on their new Apple TV Plus service. A number of major and indie dev game studios have agreed to participate in the service, including Cartoon Network, Klei Entertainment, Konami, LEGO, and Sega, to name a few. More studios and exclusive game titles are expected to be announced when the service goes live later this year. Apple anticipates at least one hundred exclusive games will be available at launch, with the library consistently growing over time.

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In addition to being able to locally install and launch these exclusive titles on any modern iOS device including iPhones, iPads, and Apple TV's, these premium games will also be free from annoying in-game advertisements and in-app purchases. The omission of IAP's makes sense given the subscription nature of the service. After all, there is little reason to consider IAP purchases for games that may be unavailable should the subscription not be renewed. Apple will also offer free family sharing, automatic updates, and a dedicated Arcade tab in the App Store to quickly access the games available to subscribers.

It remains to be seen if gamers are ready for the impending attempt by the big tech companies to change consumer behavior from a buy to own to a subscribe to play model.  Netflix and Hulu were able to succeed with movies. Apple is betting that at least some of its customers feel the same way about games. It ultimately will be depend on the quality of game titles Apple has available at launch and if these games can be consumed the same way movies are (i.e., one the game has been finished/conquered, there is little interest on the part of the subscriber to revisit the experience again).  It will also depend on what monthly cost Apple intends to charge for access to these Apple-assisted exclusive mobile gaming titles. And most importantly, it will depend on the fiscal success of game development companies participating in Apple Arcade. If these companies games are more profitable via this exclusive arrangement coupled with Apple's additional development investments compared to traditional App Store game sales, that will encourage more game studios to consider playing in Apple's walled garden of gaming.

More details are expected as Apple approaches the Fall 2019 launch of Apple Arcade.

Photos courtesy of Apple

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Mike Riley's picture

Mike Riley is a frequent contributor to several technical publications and specializes in emerging technologies and new development trends. Mike was previously employed by RR Donnelley as the company’s Chief Scientist, responsible for determining innovative technical approaches to improve the company’s internal and external content services. Mike also co-hosted Computer Connection, a technology enthusiast show broadcast on Tribune Media's CLTV.