Apple has been on a bit of a content tear this past year. Having grown as much as they can, revenue-wise, with hardware (that is, until a $2,000 foldable iPhone is released), the company has turned to subscription-based services to ensure a reliable revenue stream.
Practically no one remembers the $9.99 News+ even exists at this point. That’s why Apple has wisely pivoted back to entertainment with its latest services, Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade. The $4.99 auto-renewing monthly subscription fee for gamers will certainly get my money for the foreseeable future. Heres why.
What Is Apple Arcade?
Apple Arcade is a curated collection of mostly original games, developed by top studios like Capcom, as well as popular indie studios like Capy. For $4.99 a month you get continued access to any and all games in the Apple Arcade library.
How Do I Get It?
Sign up online or open the App Store and you’ll see a prominent Arcade tab at the bottom of the screen. Tap the Try it Free button to start your 1-month free trial. Then start downloading games! At the end of 30 days, Apple will start charging you $4.99 per month.
But, I’m Obviously Gonna Cancel
No. You’re not.
Apple Arcade is what the iPhone has needed for years. It’s a collection of high quality games that are unfettered by an iterative profit model. They don’t need to cram in a time gate that makes you wait to progress unless you pay for in-game currency. They don’t have to dangle bundles of gems, or crystals, or whatever, in front of your face every time you launch the app, hoping they’ll catch a whale (i.e. someone who pays big bucks to unlock or win at the game). There’s no pay-to-win mechanics at all, because you’re already paying Apple to play the game.
But the only way an experiment like this works is if the games are high quality, if you want to be playing them even when you’re not. And Apple Arcade very much succeeds at that.
Top 5 Titles
There are games in every genre, gathered from top studios. Puzzlers, racing games, RPGs, and more. What’s refreshing is that you don’t have to choose where to spend your money (or what “freemium” annoyances you want to deal with). If something looks interesting, you download it. If you don’t like it, you’ve lost nothing except a bit of time.
That said, there are a few games that are more worth that precious commodity than others. Here’s what I can’t put down:
- Cricket Through the Ages is a ridiculous ragdoll game in which you pit everything—from cavemen and dinosaurs to astronauts and aliens—against each other in a game of cricket. Well, at least, that’s what the game’s supposed to be. Mostly it’s you just crying through tears of laughter as you try to aim the ball or advance on your opponent and end up impaling your own head with a bat instead. Way more fun than it should be and the measured British voiceover only lends to the hilarity. Gameplay is shallow, but if you pick it up, it’ll be a while before you can put it back down.
- Dear Reader slipped by me at first, but I wish it hadn’t. For someone as addicted to words as myself, it’s the ultimate balm. Dear Reader, offers a quiet place on your iPhone where you’re untangling passages from literary classics like Pride and Prejudice. It’s not the most challenging game, but I find it to be wonderfully soothing.
- Spaceland has you taking a squad through turn-based combat in a seemingly abandoned space station. Well, abandoned except for the aliens that are trying to kill you. With a style reminiscent of old-school sci-fi squad combat games like the original X-Com, it’s perfect for when you’ve got some downtime.
- Enchanted is, well, enchanting. The geometric art style is simple and lovely and conveys a surprising amount of emotion and story. I’m awful at the actual game, which is a sometimes fiendishly difficult slider puzzle, but I keep coming back to it because I want to just be in the world and find out more.
- Grindstone is unarguably Apple Arcade’s biggest hit. The gameplay is simple, yet pleasingly difficult in later stages. The animation is cartoonish, yet satisfyingly visceral. For a game where all you’re doing is making matching color lines and avoiding enemies, Grindstone is incredibly addictive. “One quick game” becomes “one quick session” becomes “oh, I missed that appointment altogether.” I would pay $4.99 just to own this game. Undoubtedly, it’s what will keep me subscribing to Apple Arcade for a long time.
And this is just the beginning. Apple is rolling out new games on a weekly basis. If they’re of the same high quality as what’s been released so far, mobile gamers will soon have more games to play than they have time in the day to play them.