March of this year, the gaming world was ablaze with talk of Apple’s Arcade service. What initially sounded like a dangerous entry point for Apple to strong-arm their way into game streaming services, or some sort of game service to match the industry’s current ambitions, it turned out to be what Apple does best, the bare minimum.
Apple is bringing a subscription game service to the market, but their entire library is the types of games that essentially give mobile games a bad name. These games, for the most part, are glorified iPad games that offer blocky controls with worn-down visuals. These games look like the type of game that you spend $4.99 on to keep your kid busy while you are at the walk-in trying to figure out why it burns when you pee.
The concept of a “Netflix for games” is something consumers have been frothing at the mouth for.
Currently, Xbox Games Pass does a good job at offering access to games via streaming it from a PC or on a console, and Google Stadia is almost here. I don’t know how Apple looked at this and thought “a mobile game subscription pass is just what people want.” Apple Arcade was never specified as either a streaming service or a game-pass subscription from the original announcement, their vague nature of the announcement caused many of us to draw natural conclusions.
Now, I’ve spent time bitching about how these games look like mobile games, but no time talking about the games themselves, don’t worry, I gotcha. Just to be clear, I know they are mobile games to begin with, but they are mostly impostors in the worst sense. These mobile games generally have an extra layer of “pretty” on them to make them look like console-quality games. But don’t let its looks fool you.
Let’s take a look at some of the games bundled in with Apple Arcade
Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm
Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm was an absolute eye-catcher until I actually saw the game in action. Clearly inspired by The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the mystique is cut abruptly short as soon as you see the character moving around. The telltale signs of touchscreen controls are immediately apparent. That weird disconnect of moving and attacking is on display and there is an obvious limitation in regards to input.
Hot Lavais a Klei Entertainment game that looks like a PSVR game that got canceled due to the floatiness of character movement. Take a look at the trailer above, it’s nothing more than a first-person endless runner. By no means is this a “killer-app” or even an app that’s going to be played past the initial free Apple Arcade trial.
Beyond a Steel Sky
Beyond a Steel Sky is a walking simulator that peppers in some basic visual puzzles. From the initial look, Revolution Software clearly wanted to try to cash in on any remaining goodwill people have with Fallout. The in-game aesthetic looks very familiar while the trailer shows some large sparrow-like birds that are just waiting for a Nintendo cease and desist. As a puzzle game, the puzzles shown off in the trailer look painfully basic. I bet Josiah would probably love it.
Even The Pathless, which has been a game shown off for a few years now looks concerning now that forward momentum seems so apparent. I’m willing to go out on a whim and say I think this is another one of those games where the game has you continually moving and your inputs and swipes control attacks and actions. That’s too bad because the first time I saw it, I thought it showed some potential. Yeah, guess not.
Apple Arcade is so absolutely basic that even games like Wayforward’s Spidersaurs aren’t anything more than a title card and some ideas in the studio’s head. It just seems completely undercooked and set up to be another Apple product that users subscribe to and forget to unsubscribe for a year or so.
I’m in no way an Xbox fanboy in any sense of the term, but comparing the $4.99 Xbox Games Pass to $4.99 Apple Arcade, the value is absolutely questionable.
Just like myself, many other outlets out there were drawing parallels to Stadia and Apple Arcade at the start, so it isn’t hard to see where we’d expect some sort of similar value. You can pay the same amount to play games like Monster Hunter World or Dead Cells or shitty endless runners. I’d expect more from a tech pillar-like Apple, but truthfully they are apparently more or less the Valve of the electronics industry, looking to make money with as little effort as possible.
That’s what is the most jarring thing for the gaming ecosystem. Apple Arcade has fantastic names like Capcom, Konami and Mist Walker attached to it, but those names aren’t poised to deliver any form of a killer app.
Konami’s planned title, for example, is Frogger. Mist Walker’s latest game, Terra Battle 2 failed on such a worldwide level that the game remained active for under a year. These games and the virtual subscription platform are just an easy way to make a passive income with games that don’t even appear to be worth the reoccurring $4.99 to subscribers.