Apple Arcade proves that subscription is doomed to fail

Sonic, Jake from Subway Surfers, Pac-Man, and the Prisoner in front of the Apple Arcade banner
Credit: Apple / SEGA / SYBO / Bandai Namco / Motion Twin

Sonic, Jake from Subway Surfers, Pac-Man, and the Prisoner in front of the Apple Arcade banner
Credit: Apple / SEGA / SYBO / Bandai Namco / Motion Twin

Since its launch in late 2019, I've been an avid supporter of Apple Arcade. The ability to get a bunch of high-quality premium games or freemium titles converted into free-to-play experiences is a brilliant idea, and Apple's quality control could ensure the titles found on the service would be worth paying monthly for.

While my time for gaming is shorter now than it has ever been, I feel a lot of bliss for the times where I'd pair my best phone controller to an iPhone and play some amazing smartphone games. There are plenty of mobile games that ooze quality, and I've never seen why general gamers hate on mobile gaming, even if it's mostly shovelware that they complain about.

Apple Arcade was the peak of quality mobile gaming. However, as the years have gone by, I find myself less inclined to view the latest releases, and simply want to play Marvel Snap until my thumbs bleed. And it seems like I'm not the only one giving up on Apple Arcade, with a new report from suggesting Apple is letting the service down too.

Speaking to multiple sources throughout the report, it appears that Apple has cancelled various in-development games unless they're a family-friendly title with a big IP attached (like the recent Sonic Dream Team game), and has also offered declining payouts for developers.

Some sources have stated that Apple is difficult to work with. And considering the company's fierce quality control, I'm not surprised. However, there's been one surprise in recent years that seems to have made Apple Arcade very difficult for Apple - Netflix.

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Plenty of people, myself included, have major points of contention against Netflix. Consistent price hikes, cancelling shows before their prime, and a gluttony of mediocre titles make it difficult to recommend. But Netflix has recently pivoted to allowing subscribers to access a wealth of exciting mobile games as part of their service, and while a lot of first-party stuff is fairly bland, there's a decent amount of good content on there.

In fact, the controversial "definitive edition" of the GTA Trilogy, which had plenty of problems leading to it getting low scores across the board, has been released on mobile via Netflix. And, the most surprising part is that it is actually better on smartphones. This alone shows that Netflix isn't playing around, and is willing to directly compete with Apple.

Of course, Apple doesn't seem to happy with this. The report suggests that Apple acts "famously vindictive" and "spiteful" in some dealings with developers, especially those that end up making deals with Netflix.

It seems strange, if what the report states of Apple Arcade is true, that Apple would lose focus on the service when mobile gaming is consistently reaching staggering amounts of people each year. It's a bit of a chicken and egg situation though, as people don't want to pay for a service if there's no titles that interest them, but Apple isn't willing to fund it further unless there's decent revenue coming in.

This goes to show that, if you're willing to create a subscription service, you'll have to give various types of people what they're going to want. It's all fun having family-friendly IPs parading across the App Store for those who pay £5 a month for their kids to enjoy it, but those of us who want action RPGs or hack-and-slash titles won't see any reason to pay for it. And I doubt I'll be going back anytime soon.

So, if you're wondering whether Apple Arcade is worth subscribing to or not, I'd say no. At least, for now. There's every chance that Apple could start investing heavily in the service in the near future, especially with Netflix heavily contributing to the mobile gaming space, but I have my doubts.

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