Apple Arcade immediately feels like a confident first step for a company that has generally kept video games at arm’s reach.
That’s a funny thing to say about Apple, more than a decade after its inaugural iPhone effectively created a new market for mobile gaming. But while plenty of developers and publishers have hopped on the iOS gaming (and later, Android gaming) train, Apple itself has been content to just watch it all unfold.
No longer. Apple Arcade is a subscription service that unlocks access to a library of games that you won’t be able to find on any other mobile platform (even a la carte from the iOS App Store). The premise is simple: for $4.99 per month, roughly the cost of one or two mobile games, you get access to an entire library of titles, plus any add-ons released for the same.
This isn’t exactly a Netflix or Hulu for games. Some of the Arcade titles offer online features, but the games themselves aren’t streaming. You can play them offline during subway commutes and long flights. The better comparison is to Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass service, since both give subscribers access to a library of offline-friendly titles.
Where they differ is content and who makes and/or publishes it. Microsoft’s service draws primarily from the Xbox maker’s first-party catalog and indie publishing relationships. Apple hasn’t made the same kind of investments into homegrown gaming IP, but the company is working with established publishers and developers – and providing financial support – on Apple Arcade titles.