Report: Apple Shifts Gears on Arcade

Posted on July 1, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Apple, Games, iOS, iPadOS, Mac and macOS, Mobile gaming with 23 Comments

With no real hits in its game service collection, Apple is shifting its strategy for the Arcade service in an effort to retain subscribers.

According to a reliable report in Bloomberg, Apple first notified game developers of the shift in April when it canceled some in-development games because they weren’t engaging enough. The cancelations impacted “multiple” game developers, the publication says. And they came at a bad time, since the COVID pandemic was well underway, leading to financial difficulties for some of these small companies.

Apple Arcade launched in September 2019 and it carries a $5 per month fee. But with none of Arcade’s 120 titles rising to the level of “a huge hit,” as Bloomberg puts it, Apple is nervous that early subscribers will simply cancel the service over time.

Apple refuses to say how well the service is doing, but it has recently extended the normal free one-month trial to two months, and that says a lot.

“Apple Arcade has redefined what a gaming service can be, putting unlimited play at the fingertips of subscribers and their families across all their Apple devices,” an Apple statement says. “We are proud to have launched the first-ever mobile game subscription service that now features more than 120 games, many of which are award-winning and widely celebrated for their artistry and gameplay. The vision has always been to grow and evolve the Apple Arcade catalog, and we can’t wait for our users to try the games developers are working on now.”

Bloomberg adds that Apple is spending big to make Arcade a success, too: The firm has set aside tens of millions of dollars this year for new games, and it has spent between $1 million and $5 million each on several individual game titles so far.

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Comments (25)

25 responses to “Report: Apple Shifts Gears on Arcade”

  1. red.radar

    I wonder if consumers are feeling over subscribed Or the service is just not quality enough?

    personally I don’t understand how game subscriptions is even viable. A good game has replay value and you can engage with it for a long time before needing another. so there is incentive to own it. It’s not like music or tv where you consume it quickly and the poor replay value makes you want to move on.

    personally, i think the business model is flawed. I don’t see it being hugely successful without anticompetitive shenanigans

    • scj123

      In reply to red.radar:

      I pay for apple arcade if for nothing else than I know whatever game I am playing isn't going to fleece me for an in app purchase over and over again

    • Vladimir Carli

      In reply to red.radar:

      I find the idea of a subscription games to be very interesting but it depends from the value/money. I subscribed to the initial three months trial but then cancelled, could not find even one game that was interesting. I hoped that my children would use it but they constantly wanted other games and preferred the ads to playing the games in arcade. There is not one single hit, Apple should start buying important studios as Microsoft did, but I doubt they want to go down that path. Gaming doesn’t seem to be their thing at all

    • jgraebner

      In reply to red.radar:

      I would tend to think that music has a lot more long-term replay value for most people than games do.

  2. Truffles

    Looking forward to Apple unveiling its new iStationBox that'll replace the current standalone AppleTV.

    Powered by Apple Silicon.

    Just a guess.

  3. Calibr21

    Most of the games are really shallow with graphics that make them look like they should be deeper then they actually are. They need to fund games with bigger development teams. Fewer games with higher quality. Also maybe allow the games to be sold on the store as well. Like what Microsoft does with GamePass first party titles.

    The switch shows there’s a market for high quality portable games,

  4. clutem1987

    I like the concept. Not having to constantly being buying with in-app purchases to play game. Also, not having an ad every three minutes. However, I tried it the selection was not very good. Developers make more money from the ad revenue and in-app purchases.

  5. sevenacids

    Apple is just not a gaming platform.

    • William Clark

      In reply to sevenacids:

      I disagree. While the iPad/iPhone may not be PC caliber I think the iPad can be a decent gaming platform. It has most everything needed, controller support, keyboards and now mouse support. I think there can be good games on the iPad platform, Apple just hasn't figured out what that would be yet.

  6. jimchamplin

    Bloomberg still hasn’t provided any evidence for their “Big Hack” story, so credible might be stretching it.

  7. nine54

    I signed up for the service and tried a couple games, but I'm probably what Apple would consider a "retention risk" based on my usage. I wonder if a few things are going on here:

    1. The buffet effect. With this "entrance fee, all-you-can-eat" model, it can be hard to measure quality and value. Reviews can help with quality, but not as much with value. When the prime rib is next to the fried chicken, how do you measure value?
    2. If you only play a couple of games, it would be more cost-effective to just buy those games than to pay $5 each month to rent them. If those games are all you play, then the rest of the catalog is irrelevant: after a year, you'll have paid $60 for games that you likely could have gotten for $10.
    3. The business model is more compelling for smaller developers, especially if Apple decides to subsidize development. But, although the market is crowded, AAA game publishers have much more upside charging a one-time fee for their game and listing it in the App Store vs. having it included in Apple Arcade.
    • William Clark

      In reply to nine54:

      I agree. I had the service but we just didn't play the games enough to warrant keeping the service. I tend to play PC games but I am looking for some decent games for the iPad. There were one or two that were interesting for a bit but quickly became too repetitive. Maybe I'm just getting too old for arcade games any more.

  8. DBSync

    Apple Arcade is not an annual subscription. It renews every month. There are no first round of renewals.

    That happened the second month.

  9. skolvikings

    I signed up since it was only $5/month, figured I'd check it out. Some of the games are okay, but no "must plays" so I already cancelled.

  10. RonV42

    I drew the line at the 5th Flappy Bird knockoff :-)

  11. christian.hvid

    I'm no gamer, but my impression is that games are like music in that there's no given recipe for success. Imagine if Apple had paid a bunch of nameless songwriters to create 120 pop hits - I'm sure it would end up sounding like Eurovision.

  12. tripleplayed

    Canceling games because they weren't engaging enough. That just sounds like they want more gambling type games that are all over mobile. No thank you.

  13. Chris_Kez

    This seems unusually forthcoming for Apple, explicitly telling these developers that there’s been a “change in strategy”, especially knowing that kind of language will get tongues wagging. Why not just say something like "users haven't been playing your games (or these types of games) so we're not going to move forward with them"? Why frame it as a change in strategy? And if the original strategy wasn't to develop games that are compelling enough to deliver value to subscribers, then exactly what was the strategy?

  14. martinusv2

    I am not very familiar with the type of games offered in the Apple Arcade but if a lot of them are in-game purchase type of games, not many will play with thoses.

  15. Patrick3D

    For a service called "Arcade" it's kind of disappointing there are no arcade games.

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