With dozens of unique titles without the usual mobile-gaming handicaps, Apple Arcade could be just what fans of smaller experiences are looking for.
Sometimes, we write things off early due to some (justifiably) pre-existing biases, kind of like the Detroit Lines and Buffalo Bills, who are both a combined 5-0-1 (I know this is a gaming website, but stick with me).
Apple Arcade, like those aforementioned NFL teams, isn’t the type of service that gamers usually get their hopes up for, given just how vexing typical mobile gaming practices tend to be. The funny thing, however, is that Apple Arcade has one of the more impressive launches in that I’ve seen in the gaming landscape in quite some time.
The service, which officially kicked off this month, features a catalog of more than 100 unique games from incredibly talented developers. There’s plenty of variety here as well, with everything ranging from Hot Lava, a first-person platformer, to Sayonara Wild Hearts, a gorgeous arcade action-game that plays like a zany pop music video come to life. Seriously, just look at this thing.
During my time playing through the vast catalog of Apple Arcade — and by vast, I mean VAST — what impresses me the most is just how many original titles there are. It feels like a love letter to the indie world, with dazzling visuals and experiences I’m not used to having on my phone while watching whatever cheeseball YouTube video I’ve stumbled upon. Sure, there are some more well-known properties on display here (e.g. Exit the Gungeon, Shantae and the Seven Sirens, Sonic Racing, Rayman Mini, LEGO Brawls), but they’re accompanied by more original titles akin to the kind that you’d see on your typical gaming console. Yes, they’re that good.
But the greatest testament to Apple Arcade is the absence of the usual practices that you’d see with mobile games. There are no ads, energy/time limits, or purchasable currency required to enjoy each title to the fullest extent. There was a pure moment of joy I had when I playing Skate City, one of my favorites from the service, from developer Snowman where I began perusing through the skate shop for upgrades and clothing for my skater and realized there wasn’t any kind of system in place to use real-life currency to buy anything. I also remember a moment when playing Grindstone, another excellent title from developer Capy, where I was almost certain there’d be some kind of microtransactions to progress further — a staple of mobile puzzle games (I’m looking at you, Candy Crush) — but there, in fact, wasn’t. And it was delightful.
The promise of Apple Arcade is that it might be a sort of solution to the over-saturation of content that floods the app store each day. In a way, it could potentially serve as a wholly necessary filter to better traverse through the mobile gaming marketplace. In this similar vein of thinking, it could even serve as a far better way for indie developers to get attention instead of hoping lightning strikes at the right time for their great game. You just hate to see actual quality drown in a sea of uncontrollable volumes of other apps and gimmicks (although there is rightfully some concern over how well-compensated developers will be for their efforts).
The biggest question with Apple Arcade, of course, will be whether or not it can consistently provide quality content each month. For a monthly fee of $4.99, it would need to continue putting out enough original ideas that justify the subscription. Don’t get me wrong, the number of incredible titles that are available makes the service worth it, but enough is never enough. Apple Arcade needs to continue adding great titles. This doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be giant properties, though, just great games.
Another thing of note is that there are a solid amount of titles that are compatible with traditional controllers, which very much makes games more enjoyable for folks like me that don’t always fancy touch controls. The service will also soon be coming to iPad, Apple TV, and Mac (with the foremost two having a set release date for September 30th, while the latter is expected sometime in October).
While there were reasons to be dubious, such a fantastic launch lineup of games that appeal to a variety of audiences, as well as a safeguard against the typical mobile-gaming microtransaction practices, make Apple Arcade a splendid offer for $4.99 a month. But again, just like those NFL teams, we’ll have to wait and see if they can keep it up.