updated 11/28/2020
highlights
  1. What is Apple Arcade?
  2. Apple Arcade Opportunities for Developers
  3. Assistance with funding
  4. No thinking about monetizing
  5. Easier game promotion
  6. Risks and Challenges for Apple Arcade Developers
  7. Apple and subscription only
  8. One way to monetize an Apple Arcade game
  9. Cross-device and gamepad support
  10. Yet another subscription
  11. How Apple Arcade Is Acting on Game Development Industry
  12. iOs vs Android balance
  13. More chance to see the light for game developers
  14. Consecutive benefits for Apple Arcade players
  15. Final Thoughts

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Meaning of Apple Arcade for Game Developers and The Industry: Prospects and Features

Subscription-based model conquers the world: from music streaming and online cinemas to transport and professional software. It was a matter of time when it gets to the game development industry. In fact, it is already here: Origin Access, PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live managed to take their piece of a pie.
In March 2019, Apple announced its subscription service for games and released it in September 2019.

In this article, we’ll figure out the influence of Apple’s gaming subscription service for developers, gamers and the overall business. 

What is Apple Arcade?

Apple Arcade is the subscription-based gaming service. For a monthly fee, users can download games from a catalogue of 140+ (at the time we write it) titles with no additional costs. The games from Apple Arcade catalogue are only allowed inside the Apple Arcade ecosystem and can’t be purchased individually, with no subscription.

The service is available in any country that has access to the App Store, which is in 150+ countries now. The subscription costs $4,99, and players can share it with up to 6  family members. The price is lower for a yearly subscription.
Apple Arcade is also available for Apple One — a single subscription for all Apple services.

Apple’s App Store features more than 300 000 games now, while Apple Arcade has like 140 titles. So what makes developers and players pay attention to the paid service?

Apple Arcade Opportunities for Developers

Apple Arcade offers meaningful changes for the game developers of all sizes, especially in terms of monetizing and promoting. Here’s what can wake up a wish to make game for Apple Arcade:

Assistance with funding

Apple Arcade helps members of the program with development costs. The exact numbers and conditions for every company are different and confidential, but Apple already invested more than $500 million into the Apple Arcade Service. The major part of this sum was headed directly to the Apple Arcade for developers program.

No thinking about monetizing

Apple Arcade offers unmatched visibility for premium titles, while Google Play is flooded with new titles daily, which makes games hard to market there. This helps developers focus on the game itself, not developing skins, ad windows and paid mechanics to earn revenue. 

Easier game promotion

An amount of game titles inside Apple Arcade is thousandfold fewer than in the App Store, which makes it easier for a game to stay visible and discover new players. Competing against a couple of hundreds of titles of various genres is much easier than doing the same with hundred thousand games in the ordinary App Store. This gives games of experimental genres and with special mechanics a chance to be noticed.   

Risks and Challenges for Apple Arcade Developers

But all these advantages bring a set of notable risks and challenges to be considered by game developers for Apple Arcade.

Apple and subscription only

The audience of Apple Arcade games is only people who pay for the subscription, so it limits the growth ambitions to the number of Apple Arcade clients. Another obvious challenge is that Apple Arcade is only available for Apple devices, which again limits the possible audience of your game.

Good news for the developer is that the game shouldn’t be an exclusive Apple Arcade forever. After the agreed period, the developer can release the game on other platforms, as Revolution Software did with Beyond A Steel Sky release on Steam.

One way to monetize an Apple Arcade game

The absence of other than subscription payments is one of the key advantages in Apple Arcade games for players, but that brings a challenge for game creators. 

The way developers get paid in Apple Arcade is based on the amount of time people spend in the game. Which makes predicting income harder and also puts some games in a bad position. Some plot-based games or short single-player experiences can be finished in a couple of seats and won’t bring that much money with a current monetizing model.
Due to the mostly mobile nature of games for Apple Arcade, players won’t spend that much time playing in comparison with the console or PC games. This also affects the kind and quality of games on Apple Arcade: developers and publishers will be more interested in games that require more time: addictive gameplay, longer (not always better) plots. 

Cross-device and gamepad support

Cross-device support is also a crucial feature to the Apple Arcade’s performance. All Apple Arcade games should run on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and Macs, so it’s another challenge in Apple Arcade for mobile game developers to adapt the game to all those devices. And the cross-device feature also means that the user can start a game on one device and later continue on different devices with no loss in performance or progress. 

In terms of the gamepad, Apple decided not to develop its own device. Instead, they allowed playing Apple Arcade games with PlayStation’s Dualshock, Xbox One gamepad, SteelSeries Nimbus and several other Bluetooth controllers.  

There’s a rumour that Apple will add controller support sorting features in the list of games, which will help games that support gamepad controls to outstand, which brings yet another challenge for the developers.

Yet another subscription

Apple Arcade monthly fee is relatively affordable, but we’re sure it’s not the only paid subscription user has. As we mentioned earlier, the number of subscriptions keeps growing and saving some money on games may seem reasonable for many people. That puts developers in the competitions against not just other developers, but movies, music, books and other entertainment.

Mobile gamers are not the simplest audience to monetize. If a person is already paying for an Apple Arcade, they will think twice about paying beyond that, for a game outside the subscription. This may affect the games and developers outside the program.