Apple Arcade

A couple of games I’ve been playing recently are Roundguard (Peggle as a rogue like rpg) and No Way Home. The latter is a really fun twin-stick rpg that reminds me quite a bit of Space Miner: Space Ore Bust.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-06-30/apple-cancels-arcade-games-in-strategy-shift-to-keep-subscribers

Interesting. I think the positive take is that Apple wants to fund a higher quantity of content per game, at the same level of quality. I like Arcade and enjoyed several titles, but most of them were not long, under two hours to finish or master in many cases. As seen with streaming services, short originals only retain users if they are paired with a large library of existing licensed content and Apple didn’t bring any pre-existing games on the App Store into Arcade.

If I’m misreading and Apple just wants to fund games with dark patterns (in regards to playtime) to retain subscriptions, then that is lame, of course. I think a little bit of that is okay though.

I don’t think it’s a matter of “dark patterns.” I think the objection here would be that one of the appealing promises of Arcade is that it enabled a wider variety of experiences than those that could be successful in the standard App Store ecosystem. The same way Netflix has let creators make more miniseries or TV shows with different length episodes. And now Apple has decided that retention is a must-have trait, so a bunch of perfectly good experiences are being dumped.

But isn’t retention a must-have trait for any subscription service? Without any retention the service would probably die.

Not really. Netflix doesn’t need me to rewatch the same content repeatedly, nor does YouTube Premium. (Spotify probably does require me to want to listen to the same music over and over). The service can retain users even if individual content does not.

(That said, a month after the initial Apple Arcade launch, the only time I heard anybody mention one of the games was if it was Grindstone. It’s totally possible that games are more like music than like video, in that the enjoyment comes from the repetition.)

By that logic, Netflix wouldn’t fund movies and miniseries, only sitcoms and police procedurals and other shows that practically never have to end.

Maybe Apple has reason to believe that they’re different from Netflix. But if they’re roughly the same, the business model should be “You want to subscribe because we have tons of stuff you love and can’t find anywhere else–and more of it all the time.” Retention of individual products shouldn’t matter, in theory. The whole service should have retention. I would think that’s more a matter of overall quality than the specific style of games.

But it sounds like the current model didn’t work in regard to retention, so you can’t really blame them for trying a different approach.

You can blame them for trying a worse approach.

How is it worse in regard to retention? I mean, sure, if it means they get even less retention then you could call it worse. But that’s a tad early to call now.

It’s much less appealing. Why pay Apple $5 a month to play their version of Candy Crush?

Well, then don’t. I’m talking about the service in general and not my personal preferences.

But if we’re getting personal, if it wasn’t for Grindstone I’d left the service a long time ago.

That suggests you need two things for a service like this. First, the games that people actually play and make them not cancel because they don’t use it. Second, he games they don’t play but could, and make it feel like they’re getting a better deal from the subscription than just from buying the game. And in practice Apple did not get enough games of the first category.

I think another factor is that Apple Arcade is small. A budget of “Tens of millions” a year is not enough money to build such a massive library that users feel loss just by not having access to it (the possibility of playing, as said above.) And other than maybe Grindstone and Sayonara there hasn’t been a must-play hit. And apparently there aren’t enough parents buying it for their kids for the safety/no-gem-buying benefit.

So subscribing is more of a rational calculation of value on the part of the user and that makes $60/year compete with subscribing to a month of Arcade a couple times a year to catch up, which is very easy to do. Since the handful of most enticing Arcade games would have been $2-7 paid purchases if sold outside of Arcade, that means Apple’s running a discount program.

So they either need to start releasing way more games or get smarter about the content mix so they’re propping up the revenue per quality short indie game with some longer playtime games. Or lean harder on parents and Apple fans to purchase Arcade out of guilt and loyalty, respectively.

All I can say is it’s a disappointing move as far as I’m concerned. I’d far rather there were more Assemble With Cares on the service (just finished it yesterday!) than Grindstones. It’s hard to see how the former survive on mobile outside of it.

I think Netflix is in a different situation because of the volume of content. Netflix has a lot of shows.

I read that article largely sympathetic to Apple Arcade and not convinced what they’re doing is wrong. In the time I spent as a subscriber I played a lot of Grindstone and a lot of What The Golf?.

I also played a bunch of those smaller, “indie games” (not a great term I’m sorry), and I enjoyed them, but after the first couple months I’d played through the interesting games from launch and the new games only trickled out.

I don’t think Apple could ever throw enough money at the problem to guarantee you’re getting at least two or three high quality games like Sayonara Wild Hearts or Assemble With Care each month. So while I enjoyed those games, it makes sense those aren’t going to be enough for retention at the pace Apple can fund/produce them.

It’s a shame those games will struggle to find success independently produced and sold (without compromising on unpleasant free to play or advertising models), but I think realistically they’re struggling to find success here too, and that may just be the nature of those games. It doesn’t make them bad games, but what can you do?

Of course Apple also didn’t have that many Grindstone-style games. They’re great because they can keep people engaged for longer, but they’re still finite too, as my lapsed subscription can attest. So I’m not sure just saying they want more of that will make it happen. But it sounds like it might be a more realistic goal.

I think subscription providers will need to come to terms that you need to spend a LOT of money to create content for a subscription service. These things aint cheap. Look at production cost for the TV models to see the scale we are talking about here.

Netflix is spending now more in content production than all hollywood studios combined (it’s budget is higher than the total US box office, by a margin).

While of course you can’t start that big, Apple’s and Amazon’s budgets are pretty high too (about half the total US box office numbers) and higher than most (all?) studios.

Translating that to games is hard, but “tens of millions a year” isn’t going to cut it.

Apple’s got the largest war chest of all, so they’re clearly half-assing it when it comes to funding Apple Arcade. Hell, they probably spend more on a single season of one of their TV shows. (And Apple TV+ sure as hell isn’t taking off.)

Yeah, but it lets Tim Cook hang out with Spielberg and Oprah.

People are jumping to a lot of conclusions on an article with almost no real info and one snarky comment.