Gaming, Industry News & Events

What Apple Arcade means for mobile game developers

Lewis Leong
Apr 26, 2019

As Apple shifts its focus from iPhone sales to services, a gaming subscription service seemed inevitable. On March 25th, Apple confirmed its Apple Arcade game service, which will be launching in fall 2019. While the company hasn’t released pricing information for Arcade, The Financial Times revealed that the company is investing over half a billion dollars into the service. That’s an incredible investment in mobile gaming and this move will send ripples throughout the mobile gaming ecosystem. Here’s what Apple Arcade means for mobile game developers.

Apple Arcade will bring more customers to the App Store

Let’s start off with the positives of Apple Arcade. By offering consumers a subscription to a catalog of high-quality games, Apple will provide consumers more choices than ever before. Free-to-play may be the most popular monetization model in the App Store today, but Arcade leaves gamers who have yet to see mobile as a legitimate gaming platform with one less excuse to dismiss it.

The survey we recently completed with Censuswide found that most smartphone users play games, but don’t identify as gamers. This shows that although mobile democratized gaming, stigma remains around what constitutes a gamer. Gamers are often stereotyped as men who play competitive, hardcore games like League of Legends or Fortnite but that isn’t an accurate representation of reality.

Apple Arcade has the opportunity to shake up the mobile gaming ecosystem by leading gaming enthusiasts to treat mobile as one of the main platforms on which to enjoy games. This audience will complement casual gamers who don’t mind the free-to-play model while also allowing them the opportunity to discover appealing free-to-play games.

On a broader level, Apple Arcade may drive more mobile game developers to create for iOS versus Android because the service will bring an audience of highly engaged players who are used to investing in gaming.

Developers can take more risks

With Apple investing over half a billion dollars in 100+ Arcade games, developers in the program will have more room for risk-taking. Typically, developers are under pressure to produce games, often based on tried and true models, that will resonate immediately and drive revenue. With the level of investment Apple is poised to contribute, developers will have more room to experiment with game play types and genres, while running the gamut from hardcore to hyper-casual.

Encouragingly, Apple has done a stellar job of recruiting innovative mobile publishers like Annapurna Interactive, which brought gamers Donut County and Florence. Big gaming brands like Konami, Devolver, SEGA, and LEGO are also onboard.

Important questions remain

Apple Arcade provides some obvious positives for mobile game developers but some pressing questions remain. One of the biggest unknowns is pricing. There are rumors that Apple Arcade will cost $9.99 per month, which is in line with Xbox Game Pass and half the price of PlayStation Now. This puts Apple up against the biggest names in gaming with a significantly smaller catalog of games. However, Apple has the advantage of being mobile.

For developers with games in Apple Arcade, larger questions remain around how revenue will be distributed amongst games. Apple could be poised to replicate the Apple News+ model, which gives 50% to Apple and distributes the rest to publications that receive the most engagement. With developers fighting for their games to be played, Apple will play a crucial part in helping developers get their games discovered, forcing the company to actively curate and rotate games from the front page to give developers an equal chance to shine.

Apple Arcade is an exciting paradigm shift for the mobile gaming ecosystem and has the ability to bring with it a new audience of highly-engaged players to iOS, Mac, and Apple TV. This new audience will complement the existing premium and free-to-play games markets, strengthening the mobile gaming ecosystem. While there are unanswered questions, Apple Arcade demonstrates the power of mobile gaming, which offers opportunity to developers and players alike.

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