Apple Arcade, the company’s mobile game subscription service, recently launched 20 new games in one day, including TMNT Splintered Fate, Spellstruck, Cityscapes: Sim Builder, and What the Car?. The service has also updated some classic premium games from earlier iPhone gaming eras, like LIMBO, Kingdom Two Crowns, Farming Simulator 20, Octodad: Dadliest Catch, Temple Run, and Bennett Foddy’s Getting Over It. This release marks the biggest haul of games released by Arcade in quite some time, as it has recently seen more of a trickle of new releases.
Apple’s content strategy with Arcade is to leverage the best ideas and talent from the open App Store marketplace to prove that the common notion that “mobile games are bad” is entirely wrong. Apple wants to counter mobile’s signal-noise-ratio problem by curating for quality and stripping games of microtransactions, even in genres that were initially developed around that monetization model. Apple diagnosed that mobile games’ reputation problem comes from users’ inability to wade through a whole lot of bad games to find the good stuff.
Apple Arcade provides a curation service, like a mobile game personal shopper, that offers a certain minimum level of quality for its subscribers. However, the service’s growth has been limited, in part because there are already hundreds of outstanding mobile games on both iOS and Android, including many free-to-play ones with reasonable and non-intrusive monetization. Thus, it may have proven difficult to upsell iPhone owners on Arcade’s ultra-cheap $4.99 monthly price tag. Arcade is essentially competing with the free-to-play market, which has proven to be very successful.
Apple is not the only game subscription service doing this. Netflix Games has rapidly grown over the past year and is pushing out titles from popular iOS developers, some of whom used to put their new games on Arcade. Games like Laya’s Horizon are playable on the iPhone and downloadable via the App Store, but they require a Netflix subscription to play. Recently, Netflix Games has been generating more buzz among influencers and the press than what Apple has been putting out on Arcade.
Media buzz doesn’t necessarily equal success, and neither Apple nor Netflix has made many details about individual games’ performance public. While Apple Arcade got some buzz early after it launched in 2019, reports over the ensuing months suggested that Apple was struggling to gain as much ground with it as it would like, and much of the buzz quieted down. The competition is fierce, so we’ll have to wait and see if this new barrage of games will rekindle some interest in Arcade.
Apple Arcade’s growth may also be limited by its lack of cross-platform availability. Unlike other game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass or PlayStation Now, which offer games across multiple platforms, Arcade is exclusive to Apple’s ecosystem. This may be a turn-off for gamers who prefer to play across multiple devices.
Apple Arcade’s recent release of 20 new games is a renewed effort to prove the quality of mobile gaming. The service’s content strategy is to leverage the best ideas and talent from the open App Store marketplace and curate for quality to counter mobile’s signal-noise-ratio problem. However, Arcade’s growth has been limited, in part because of the free-to-play market’s success and the service’s lack of cross-platform availability. Only time will tell if Apple Arcade can compete with other game subscription services and prove that mobile games are not bad.