Everything We Don’t Know About Apple Arcade

Subscription cost? Quality of games? Frequency of updates?

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Ready or not, the next generation of video games is slowly but surely becoming a reality. Just a week after Google unveiled its Stadia streaming platform, Apple came out of the gate swinging by announcing Apple Arcade. Apple Arcade will be a curated store of new and exclusive games, playable only on Apple platforms like iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV. It will also be a subscription-based model, wherein players pay one regular fee and have access to all of Arcade’s games.

For all the information Apple unleashed on March 25 (and it was definitely more than Google disclosed the week before), the tech giant still left many questions unanswered.

What will Apple Arcade cost?

Though Apple said the service will launch in the fall, it did not give a price. For an unknown and relatively young service model, the price of Apple Arcade seems like it could make a large difference. If it is a relatively cheap service, like Nintendo Switch Online, it’s easy to see how people would shell out a few bucks a month and forget if they use it or not. But if Apple Arcade carries a premium price tag (like almost everything else Apple sells), then Apple will certainly have to get more aggressive in promoting the games.

Will the games all be quality ones?

One of the bigger questions that exists as Apple moves to a more carefully curated marketplace for games, possibly replacing the current game selection in the App Store, is what will determine which games will come to Apple Arcade?

In its presentation, Apple made it known that the company is working with legendary designers like the creators of SimCity and Final Fantasy to deliver exclusive games. But almost none of the announced games come from well-known franchises or studios, making it difficult to determine quality on its face.

Google slipped in its Stadia unveiling by leaving game announcements for a future date. Apple did not make that same mistake, but opened up the question of how players should feel comfortable buying into a service full of unknown games.

How often will the lineup be updated?

Apple Arcade boasted more than a hundred games at launch, but there’s no telling how often players could expect new experiences. Will there be a set release schedule of new titles, or will they appear as they come? What will the frequency be? People surely won’t be expected to pay for an ongoing service that has no roadmap of future titles.

apple arcade details in article
Apple Arcade details. / Apple

Will the games all be mobile games?

As mobile processors and graphical capabilities continue to scale, the definition of a “mobile game” has grown increasingly blurry. However, many people still expect to play very different experiences on phones or tablets as opposed to consoles.

Though it’s hard to tell with Apple Arcade, it seems as though most of them will be smaller, more limited experiences that most people would associate with mobile games.

It’s difficult to tell if Apple’s curated games will lean more toward traditional mobile experiences or larger console-esque experiences, or if the company will continue to blur the line of what makes a mobile game. From Apple’s perspective, it wouldn’t be worthwhile to differentiate between game experiences and possibly sideline a section of players.

While it may seem like a nuanced question, many mobile games are designed differently than other experiences. It’s easy to deduce that developers for Apple Arcade would figure that most of its subscribers would play on phones or tablets and thus develop games for those form factors. That could affect gameplay. It seems like it could be difficult to design certain games that play well on both the iPhone and an Apple TV, and that developers would skew toward one platform or the other.

How much will developers make?

This question is a little in the weeds, but it’s a lingering thought about a subscription-based streaming model: If players pay one set price, how are developers paid? Are they paid per stream of their game? Are they paid one set price and offered bonuses for performance? Is there another payment model?

There has been little reporting coming out about this. But as we move toward this inevitable streaming future in video games, there will surely be experimentation on the business model. We’ll just have to wait and see what the results will be.

While Apple Arcade doesn’t seem like the large undertaking Google is pursuing with Stadia, it definitely cements this trend in video games. Though Microsoft and Sony are both heavily rumored to be releasing traditional console boxes for their next-gen experiences, the future is being pushed by Apple and Google. In the short term, that’s a win for players, as competition will bring more games and hopefully better ones. The long term remains unknown, as each of these new platforms carries a number of important, unanswered questions.

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