Apple Arcade

So you aren’t really using it? I rarely game on iOS, but I did quite a bit the first month and half after Arcade came out. The biggest reason I don’t game on iOS is because I don’t like the free to play pay model, so removing that is a huge boon in my eyes. Seems like there is some really high quality stuff there, but a lot of it doesn’t seem to be my type of games.

I just cancelled my sub, and based on my actual play time with Apple Arcade games, I probably should have done this months ago.

No regrets, Grindstone was a treat and I had a lot of fun with a handful of other games, but late last year the weekly releases slowed to a trickle of games I’m sure are “fine” but I have zero interest in.

It certainly seems like Apple built up a stable of impressive games for launch but hasn’t managed (or tried?) to keep a steady stream of high profile titles coming.

Odds of this being the template for AppleTV+?

Wouldn’t they have needed the stable of impressive TV shows for launch to fit that template though?

Hah. Fair point, not everyone thinks they had anything worth subscribing to at the start. Now imagine it just trails off from here. On a slower scale than Apple Arcade I’d assume, given the production times and season lengths of shows, but overall I suspect the same thing: the number of high profile shows will only decline from launch.

Apple News+ already sounds like a bust. When it comes to content subscription services, I just don’t think Apple has the drive, determination, or the resources (motivated people, not money) to keep trying until they win.

Apple Music is probably fine for as long as the field of music streaming remains mostly undifferentiated by actual content; everyone has mostly the same songs/artists/labels.

I subscribe to Arcade intermittently. I think I’m on track to spend $20-25 a year. There are still more games I want to play so I haven’t hit a wall with the release cadence although I definitely want more strategy games. As my kids get older I’m guessing we’ll end up doing $50/year indefinitely since we’ll all be invested in various games at different times. Unless we get a bombshell article about how Arcade is mistreating developers, I’ll continue to feel good about how Arcade supports quality and non-exploitive mobile game development based on the games themselves and the developer interviews I’ve read or listened to so far.

AppleTV+ seems like the opposite release cadence to me, because they will be launching more new shows than they currently have, as well as more seasons of the current shows. It’ll take about three years for them to reach a release rate that stays steady if they keep spending a billion dollars a year, assuming production costs stay constant. I don’t know if I’ll ever pay for it because we’ll likely be buying some qualifying iOS device nearly every year for the foreseeable future (sob.)

Agree News+ is low value at $10/month. It was interesting to flip through a few magazines, but for the most part I couldn’t tell the difference between seeing free and free+premium content in the News app. WSJ being a gimped version that was hard to peruse, and WSJ being just about the only national paper, did not help either.

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.

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.