· 10 min read

Apple Arcade: What This Really Means For Mobile Game Developers (Updated)

We look at the pro's and cons of Apple's latest subscription-based service, Apple Arcade, and what mobile game developers should look out for.

Editors note: We originally published this earlier this year when Apple Arcade was originally announced. As promised, we’ve updated this post with the latest info about Apple Arcade (latest update October 11th 2019). Updated text will be in italics.  

A lot has happened since we last reported on Apple Arcade – the launch has finally happened, games have been confirmed, and we’ve had a taste of what’s to come. To keep you guys up-to-date with what’s going on, here are a few things that have come to light since April 2019, and what this 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 a shake-up? Yes, it will

Editors note: This section we’re going to keep the same, as we still think this now. However, there are a bunch of new updates of what Apple Arcade means to game developers at the end of this post. 

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.

apple arcade 1

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.

What we know so far:

  • Announcement date: 25th March 2019
  • Launch date: 19th September 2019
  • Mobile game releases: Over 100 planned Confirmed over 100+ (full list here)
  • 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)
  • Price point: Hasn’t been announced yet $4.99 per month. First month is free. 
  • Mode: Online or offline play You have to download the game first
  • 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).

So, what does Apple Arcade mean for mobile game developers?

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. Definitely 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 number 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.


Now that Apple Arcade is live, the above is even more the case – which could mean good things for the industry. Games that don’t rely on the freemium model and charge upfront are seeing a hit. But with Apple Arcade’s new model, this could mean developers can take a step away from the F2P model of a bombardment of ads and IAP, and back to what game development was really about: creating awesome and unique experiences. 

2. You’ll get support from Apple. Financially and otherwise. 

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.


Again as mentioned above, this could be the golden ticket that creative game developers need. The only downside is, can Apple Arcade’s model support the majority of the industry’s developers? Probably not. 

apple arcade 2

3. And don’t expect your game to be exclusive forever

In order to receive 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.


Apple has been quite secretive about this, and their partners are sworn to silence. We’re not sure what the deal is, but we’ll update it here once we do know. 

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 won’t get those holiday spikes, in-app optimization, 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 monetization 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.


Now that Apple Arcade is live, and you are considering reaching out to them, we strongly recommend taking a look at the type of games that are on there. Get an idea of what they are looking for and the standard of their games.

6. It’s unlikely that Apple Arcade will disrupt F2P games Apple Arcade may disrupt F2P, but for the better

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?

apple arcade 3

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.


Although we still agree with the above, this is more for the hyper-casual titles. Commuters, people waiting in line, or when the 5 minute ads come on the tele, players will want to get a quick gaming fix. Keep in mind, however, there are a bunch of quick indie games on Apple Arcade, so even this can see a shift in the future (once they release more games).  

For the other F2P games (most likely mid-core ones), unless they have a good balance of gameplay, ads, and IAP, then these types of games may see a hit. But we’re talking about the games that abuse F2P, and are toxic long term for the gaming industry. Developers of these games are going to need to take a long hard think about their strategy. As we mentioned above, it seems as though Apple Arcade is raising the bar. 

Update: This could disrupt the family audience 

Apple Arcade is something you can get not only for yourself, but also for an additional 5 members. This could be a big USP for families. The fact that there is no IAP in their games means parents can no longer be afraid of their kids spending hundreds of dollars on extra lives. And with over 100 titles at their fingertips, they can also save time looking for kid-friendly games without hidden costs. 

Update: Could this mean an even more pivot towards iOS during development? 

Now that Apple Arcade has been released, there could be an increase in sales of Apple products as game developers may now be prioritizing the iOS version of their mobile games. This is also because developers are eager to publish their games in China. But, it has a fragmented Android eco-system, which means a lot of Western developers will favor iOS. 

Update: More controls could mean more complex mechanics for mobile games? 

Unlike Google Stadia, Apple hasn’t announced plans for a special controller (let’s call it iController), to be used for Apple Arcade gameplay, but players can hook up other controllers to their phones and iPads to play their games. Now that players can use controllers, they have so many more buttons than the two thumbs they’re used to on mobile devices. That, paired with the shift away from freemium titles, could mean more complex mid-core games at your fingertips. 

Apple Arcade will still have an impact on the mobile gaming 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 mold. 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:

This couldn’t be more spot on. There’s so much competition out there, and every day more is added.

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