Apple Joins The Games Subscription Race With Arcade
Apple has announced that it will launch a games subscription service called Arcade. For a monthly payment (price point to be determined), the service will feature over 100 original games which users will be able to play across iPhones, iPads and Apple TV and pick up wherever they left off. The service will be available via the AppStore.
The announcement comes at the same time other tech majors are moving into games streaming subscriptions, and Apple Arcade is positioned well to compete around them, rather than directly against. Here is why:
The table stakes: Original content
Apple is investing in the production costs of the games, making Arcade not just a distribution play like the Appstore but a move into original games content. This is important, as exclusive content provides a key unique selling point for subscription services.
The attention catcher: Solving the pay-to-play problem
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Much of freemium mobile gaming has been cursed by pay-to-play dynamics, whereby game progress is largely a matter of money spent rather than skill. On one hand, these dynamics allowed for the emergence of gaming app whales, who largely subsidised/contributed to the mobile gaming industry boom. On the other hand, it often left the non-paying mobile gamer community with a disappointing experience, unable to compete with those who spend to achieve in-game progress, or unable to progress at all once they achieved a certain part of the game.
Arcade however will have its games fully available to the player as part of the subscription, so paid progress will not be an issue anymore. This is likely to lead to more stable and easily retainable user engagement in the long term, because there will now be fewer factors at play motivating users to ditch a game after it has become too difficult/time consuming to play and compete for free.
The unique selling point: Offline play and tracking-free environment
Perhaps the most interesting part of the Arcade announcement is the fact that games on Apple Arcade will be playable offline. This is a competitive nod to all the games streaming services, such as Microsoft’s xCloud and Google’s Stadia, which depend on internet connectivity. It clearly sets apart the gaming proposition at a time when a number of games subscription services are entering the market. Rather than trying to join the games streaming trend and compete against the other tech majors, Apple has managed to build a proposition that has the potential to compete around them.
Furthermore, no ads and no tracking will provide a superior mobile gaming experience.
In the attention economy, ad-free mobile gaming is a gift to consumers, because the increasingly scarce time they have to allocate to the session isn’t taken up by unwanted content. Apple has already redefined mobile gaming once with the launch of the App Store. It might just be able to pull off the same with Arcade.