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A deep dive into the Apple Arcade—Part Six

Today wraps up my deep dive into the Apple Arcade. As a refresher, here's what's in each part of the series:

  • Part One: This covers what I look for in games, some general observations on the games in the Arcade, and the lengthy list of games that didn't make my first cut.
  • Part Two: A slightly deeper look at the first half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Three: A slightly deeper look at the second half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Four: The first half of my set of definite keeper games.
  • Part Five: The second half of my set of definite keeper games, including my two favorites.
  • Part Six: The part you're reading now; wrapping it all up.

So is the Apple Arcade worth its $5 per month cost?

For me, here's how I see the positives and negatives. First, the positives…

  • The lack of monetization is so welcome. No ads, no required items to buy to proceed in the game—or if you do need things, they're only bought with in-game earned currency. When I switched back to some of my normal games, they just felt so … chintzy? … by comparison. Even those I've paid for still want me to spend real world money to buy in-game items. No thanks. To me, this is the biggest appeal of the Apple Arcade. It's a return to a time when games were just games and not "monetization opportunities."
  • No subscriptions. Closely related to the above, but different—developers can't offer a subscription for new game levels or features or whatever. The game is the game.
  • Exposure to a huge variety of games for one fixed price. I was able to play a number of game varieties that I never would have tried, given they may require up-front payment or in-game monetization exposure. And while I didn't keep most of them, there were some that I did enjoy.
  • Excellent production values. The games are all gorgeous with excellent sound effects and (in general) very well thought out interfaces. Not a single game felt unfinished or unpolished.
  • You can "subscribe" to any unreleased game, and you get a notice that it's available to install when it's released. That's how I found out two additional games had shipped during this writeup.
  • Games are installed on your device. Once installed, they act like any other game, and can be played even when you're offline. This makes for a very seamless user experience.
  • Share with up to six family members. If you've got a family and they're gamers, this makes the $5 per month fee relatively inexpensive, assuming (big assumption) that there are enough games of interest in the Arcade that normal purchases would drop off by at least the subscription cost.

And here are the negatives as I see them…

  • Yet Another Subscription Service. I'm already suffering from subscription overload when you consider the Mac, iOS, streaming services, and who knows what else. Keeping track of all the services, and which we're actively using and which we're not is a bit of a pain.
  • Some game categories are not well represented. I enjoy auto racing/driving simulation games, and there are none in the Arcade. I like sports games, and there are very few in the Arcade. There are no first person shooter games, at least in the traditional sense. There are only a couple of word games, no true card games, and one jigsaw puzzle game. I'm sure there are other categories that I haven't covered here, but those are the ones I noticed.
  • If you decide to join, it'll be hard to leave. Obviously, that's kind of the point of the service, but if you do join, you'll probably get hooked on at least a few games, and will not want to give them up if you decide to stop subscribing. But there's no way to buy a game to convert it to a non-subscription version, so they'll just be gone when your subscription expires.
  • Some game types won't come to the arcade If a game requires monetization to succeed, it won't ever be available via the Arcade. If the content doesn't meet Apple's (probably unstated) requirements, it won't ever appear in the Arcade. So if you restrict your gaming to the Arcade, you'll be missing out on a lot of interesting stuff.

At $5 a month, I think the Arcade is a no-brainer choice for two groups of people. First, anyone with a family that all plays games and could save that much by offsetting some purchases with rented games will come out ahead. Second, more hardcore gamers who easily spend more than $5 a month may find it saves them a bit of money, as they can use the rented games to replace something they may have otherwise purchased.

For me, though, it's a tougher call. My kids play games, but they do more gaming on the Mac and Xbox than they do on iOS. And on the iOS side, the few games they do play are typically the free-to-play variety. My wife isn't much for games at all, except for some word games, which the Arcade really doesn't offer. So then it's down to my activities.

And I do play games on iOS—mainly on my iPad. But the games I play tend to be ones I've had for years, and enjoy and keep playing. I don't actually spend all that much on games; so far in 2020, I've spent less than $20. So a jump to $60 a year is an appreciable increase. I'd gain access to many more games, but the reality is I don't have that much more time to spend playing games, so I don't know that I'd benefit all that much from the subscription.

So for now, I think I'm going to pass on Apple Arcade and let the trial expire in three months. Of course, when that time comes and I have to give up tint and Mini Motorways, will I really be able to say no? I guess I'll see. Either way, I think Apple has done a very good job with the Arcade, and it's a nice addition to the iOS gaming landscape.

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