Tobold's Blog
Thursday, November 07, 2019
Same offer, different platform

I am currently subscribed to the Xbox Game Pass for PC (beta), which gives me access to about 150 PC games (for download, not streaming) for €4 per month. I think that is a good offer. Now I read about Apple Arcade, which offers to give me access to 100 iOS games for €5 per month, and I think that this is a horribly bad offer. Why, if it is so similar?

In my mind mobile games are cheap, even the best ones. PC games are more expensive, especially triple A titles on release. The Outer Worlds for €60 at release is a regular price, and getting access to it via the Xbox Game Pass for PC for much less feels like a steal. I can't think of a €60 iOS game, and even €20 for an iOS games seems expensive. Apple Arcade doesn't even try to convince you that it is a way to get games cheaper, instead it has "exclusive" games, which you can't buy at all if you aren't on Apple Arcade. And they are indie games rather than triple A games. Because of that, you don't know these games, and don't feel much pull to sign up to try them.

In the end, Apple Arcade appears mostly to be a paid curator system: It selects a bunch of decent games with no in-app purchases. There are other decent games with no in-app purchases in the iOS app store, but they are hard to find in a sea of garbage and exploitative games. The sometimes very low quality of the Apple app store games becomes the purchasing argument for Apple Arcade. I rather find good iOS games by reading free websites reviewing them.

Mobile games are more 'casual' on average, but that won't impact someone who prefers casual games, as many do.

I think this is probably a decent deal for some people, especially if they don't want to rummage through the app store looking for gems.
I think a new subscription service needs a killer app to convince lots of people to sign up. A lot of people (including me) have signed up to Xbox PC to try "The Outer Worlds" and I guess some of us will stick around. I remember when Netflix first launched in Europe "Breaking Bad" was the big pull. By limiting themselves to exclusives Apple have pretty much guaranteed they won't get any killer app games. There is no way the next GTA or COD or what have you will limit themselves to Apple Arcade.
I think mobile games have lost their inherent value. The expectation is that they should be free (with expensive in-app purchases later) anything requesting an upfront payment feels wrong. When mobile games are predominantly free to play, $5 a month feels expensive. It is an irrational irrelevance that $5 is all-inclusive while the f2p games will try fleecing you for much more.
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