Arcade launches Thursday, which will mark the tech giant’s second service launch of 2019—with more on the way.
Arcade, which gives users access to a library of games playable across the company’s devices, follows Apple (ticker: AAPL) News+, a $10-a-month newspaper-and-magazine reader. Apple TV+, the company’s bid to ride the streaming television wave, is due in September.
The new services illustrate Apple’s push to deepen its relationships with device buyers and create lasting revenue streams. Arcade, for its part, will cost $5 a month, with the company saying it will offer “over 100” games at launch and add more monthly.
That $5 fee gets players access to a library of games with no ads or micropayments. New games and updates are included. That, along with a family-sharing feature that allows for six users, could appeal particularly to parents who don’t like surprise credit card bills caused by kids who get carried away playing.
Over time, Arcade’s value will be determined by the breadth and quality of its game library. If a must-play game can’t be found anywhere else, that’ll be a draw, too. Many of the games, Apple says, will be exclusive to Arcade.
Barron’s saw some of the offerings, which players will access through the App Store, earlier this week. (In a neat feature, game progress saved on, for example, an iPhone will be recorded if you pick the same game up on an iPad.)
The moody puzzle adventure Where Cards Fall, looked and sounded impressive on an iPad. Players guide the protagonist through a dreamy landscape of thoughts and memories; its developers estimate six hours of playtime for those who plow through the story, or closer to 20 for those who eschew hints.
Hot Lava, a take on the childhood game in which the floor is—that’s right, hot lava—is more visceral, with players running and jumping to avoid the bubbling red stuff. (It will also be available to PC gamers on Steam.) Its developers say a single playthrough might take 15 hours, but players who customize characters or try gamer-built levels could end up with hundreds.
Meanwhile, other media outlets have also been checking out the product. Here’s a selection of quotes from reviews Barron’s has read:
• “At launch, Arcade will likely be worth it for the handful of games I’ve already played,” Gizmodo’s Alex Cranz wrote. “They’ll undoubtedly last me for a few months of entertainment, and given they’re only playable via a subscription, I’ll be locked in for however long those games give me joy.”
• “Of the first batch of Apple Arcade games I’ve tried, my two favorites…[are] both isometric 3-D games built around very analog ideas,” Dan Ackerman wrote for CNET. “Where Cards Fall uses stacks of playing cards to solve puzzles, while Overland plays like a miniatures-on-a-map tabletop strategy game. Console gamers will take to Oceanhorn 2, a very convincing Zelda-like 3D adventure that could fit in on any current game console.”
• “The power of these devices can vary quite a bit,” Jeff Benjamin wrote for 9to5Mac. “For example, my 2019 MacBook Pro, while adequate for most casual computing tasks, definitely struggled when running games like Hot Lava at high settings. I imagine that such games running on modern iPad or iPhone hardware would perform better on those platforms.”
The effect Arcade will have on the industry is hard to guess at present. Apple hasn’t said much about its contracts with developers. It has said, however, that it is backing game development and won’t compensate developers based on how much games are played or own the intellectual property.
Apple wants the product to cover all game types and genres, though a model that doesn’t rely on one-time or micropayments could be particularly effective for games that are meant to be finished, or tell discrete stories, rather than to be played for years.
Arcade could pull some gamers away from the free-to-download, pay-for-perks industry—but that is itself a growing industry that accounts for billions of dollars of revenue world-wide. Apple, which already benefits from that economy via App store payments, is going for an even bigger slice of that pie now.