When Apple launched its Arcade service last year, it was poised to revolutionize mobile gaming if not digital gaming in general. It was praised for not trying to milk gamers with IAPs and ads and its subscription-based model promised to give developers and publishers a steadier source of revenue. It might have been too early to celebrate, however, as news of some significant changes underfoot seem to suggest that Apple Arcade isn’t yet the profitable gaming service Apple envisioned it to be.
For users, nothing is really changing as far as the business model is concerned. You still pay a flat $4.99 a month to get unlimited access to a catalog of mobile games, some of them exclusive to iOS for a period, that’s slowly but surely growing every month. For that price, you won’t be bothered by ads and you won’t need to pay to win, something Apple will probably never renege.
What might be changing, however, is the list of future games that would be coming to Apple Arcade, or at least those that are planned to be. Sources told Bloomberg that Apple has been contacting developers and studios and canceling contracts that would have helped place their titles on Apple’s list. The reason, apparently, is that Apple deemed these games to be lacking in engagement.
“Engagement” is the term that services use to refer to a product’s ability to keep customers hooked. This sudden shift in direction suggests that Apple Arcade’s current games aren’t exactly doing that, with subscribers probably leaving after the free month trial period. Apple wants and needs games that will keep players paying that fee month after month and it’s now scrapping those that it thinks won’t be able to do that.
The change in strategy isn’t exactly surprising given how Apple’s new subscription-based services, especially News+, seem to be having some trouble holding on to both subscribers as well as content providers. Unfortunately, that change also puts developers and studios at financial risk during these uncertain times. Apple did reportedly pay them for the work they have already accomplished and kept the doors open for future collaboration, presuming smaller studios will be able to last that long.