Two industry titans have emerged with gaming platforms that both intend to become the Netflix of gaming. In the web browser corner, we have Google with its new platform, Google Stadia. From the hardware realm, the geniuses of Apple have come together to announce the launch of Apple Arcade.
These contenders could disrupt the gaming industry as we know it. For now, we’re shining the spotlight on Apple Arcade, and finding out what this exactly means for mobile game developers.
Here’s what we cover (feel free to skip to something in particular, if you’d like):
- Will Apple Arcade be an industry shake up?
- What we know about Apple Arcade so far
- What this means for developers
- Some useful resources
Over the past few years, free-to-play has undoubtedly been a dominant force.
But now, we’re seeing subscriber-based business models rise up, with Apple Arcade carrying the battle banner. So many other forms of media have adopted this model already (Netflix, Amazon, Youtube, Spotify, Xbox, and PlayStation, to name a few), so it was only a matter of time that Apple would hop on the wagon.
But does this mean that F2P gaming could be relegated to the lightweight category? Maybe. Consumers are already so familiar with the concept, that they could be quick to adopt Apple’s new service. At the very least, F2P will definitely find itself up against a worthwhile contender in the ring.
All we can say is, definitely expect to see a shift in the gaming industry. But instead of umming and ahhing, let’s take a look at what we do know about Apple Arcade.
- Announcement date: 25th March 2019
- Launch date: September-November 2019
- Mobile game releases: Over 100 planned
- Partners: At least 30 (developers and publishers, full list here)
- Revenue model: Subscription-based (that’s right, no IAP or ads)
- Availability: Global (over 150 countries confirmed for launch)
- Price point: Not announced yet
- Mode: Online or offline pay
- Devices: Available across all Apple devices
So far, Apple has promised to offer more than 100 games with an Apple Arcade subscription, and is willing to spend $500 million or more on the project. Although the pricing details aren’t set in stone, their analysts predict that Apple Arcade will eventually produce more revenue than their other subscription services (Apple News Plus and Apple TV Plus).
In writing, this all sounds impressive (and intimidating, for most). But what does this mean for the thousands of indie game developers already out there? And what can they do to survive in the ring with this giant? Here’s what we found:
1. More focus on your game
For many years, especially in F2P games, you might have felt like gamers were being swamped with calls to splash a bit of their cash in-game. Ads have become commonplace, popping up mid game, in a bid to get enthusiastic gamers to part with even more of their money.
Apple intends to become a proper heavyweight champion, seeing off the need for ads. They’re pretty certain that their new subscription-based model will actually limit the amount of games they release, so that only the best titles get through. Games with microtransactions and ad setups would simply not get a look-in.
So, the benefit here is that Apple Arcade could allow developers a step back from free-to-play games, and will let them focus on more mid-core titles. The downside however, is the standard for these games will be higher. You’ll most likely need an extremely polished version of your game to be considered. Or, you may have to consider finding a publishing partner that works with Apple to get you across the finish line.
2. You’ll get support from Apple
In their latest report, Apple announced that they want to help developers get set up on their service by paying for some of their costs, which should take some pressure off when building your game. How much they’ll contribute is still yet to be revealed, so maybe don’t hold your breath.
3. And don’t expect your game to be exclusive forever
In order to receive said funding from Apple, developers will have to avoid releasing their titles on the Google Play Store, and must take no part in other gaming subscription services.
Which might put you off… But they did promise that after a “few months” (this could be 3, this could be 13, we don’t know) you’ll be able to release games on non-mobile platforms, such as PCs and gaming consoles, which is better than what we expected. This could also encourage a change in the types of games that developers make, leaning away from the hyper-casual and casual titles, and shifting towards the mid-core genre.
4. Although, your ARPDAU will suffer
Apple has promised no in-app purchases or ads in their games. When you pay for the subscription, you get full access to all of their titles. Which sounds great, from a consumer perspective.
But what this means for you is a lower ARPDAU, as you’ll won’t get those holiday spikes, in-app optimisation, and competitor ad premiums. This is probably why Apple is offering to pay for some of the development, as there’s a chance of you missing out on some top dollar by current monetisation strategies.
5. But if you’re a new developer, you may have a hard time convincing them
At the moment, Apple has reached out to a handful of developers and studios to partner with. They’ll be options to open this up, but it looks like their benchmark will be pretty high.
If you’re new to the gaming industry and have your eyes on Apple, it’s probably best to focus on creating something awesome with a great concept first. You’ll then want to take this to one of their Publishing partners.
6. It’s unlikely that Apple Arcade will disrupt F2P games
Subscription based games aren’t particularly new. This can already be seen with Xbox, Playstation, and even some smaller mobile titles (like Badlands and Kwalee, for example).
Those who do use their phones as a primary source of gaming are typically casual buyers who don’t mind in-game ads, like Hole.io and Candy Crush (as long as they’re getting their entertainment for free). So will Apple convert the casual players over? Who knows. But as a rule, people will always expect ads and in-app purchases for free pocket titles. Why would they want to start paying for something they already have?
So if you are a completely new developer entering the gaming development world, don’t be put off by this tech giant. You’ll still likely find your place in the market.
As a developer, you’re not only competing with other mobile games, but every other piece of entertainment out there. Be this Kindle, Netflix, Youtube, Buzzfeed (I could go on). And with the announcement of Google Stadia and Apple Arcade, both of which you can consume on the go, this does mean that the market will be more competitive. But can bring you more opportunities.
So, what can you do? Keep creating games that break the mould. The sky’s the limit. Focus on something you love and are passionate about, and share it with the world. Here’s a few resources that’ll give you a headstart, and some more information about Apple Arcade: