Today, Apple is launching its Arcade game service, which gives users access to a library of over 100 games for $5 per month. It will launch on Apple TV on September 30. Here are our first impressions.
The Arcade is open
Apple Arcade opens on iPhone today, iPad on September 24, Apple TV on September 30, and Mac in October. The company emphasizes that Arcade is the first game service to span TV, mobile, and desktop.
The name Arcade brings back memories of classic arcade games. These games were approachable but you had to continuously feed coins to the machine. In that sense Apple Arcade is similar. It is a subscription service but the main difference here is that a subscription plan gives you access to the full library of games without limitations. There are no in-app purchases or loot boxes, and no in-game ads.
FlatpanelsHD gained access to Arcade earlier this week and although we have yet to explore most of the games, we are left with a positive first impression. However, we think it is important to emphasize that these are not console-quality games but rather mobile games. There are a few titles that originate in console releases but those are generally considered 'indie' games.
That may change in the coming years. Last year, Apple pointed out that its graphics processor in iPad Pro now surpasses Xbox One X. In a few years from now, a chip at least as powerful will power hundreds of millions of Apple devices, including Apple TV.
Arcade game library
The game library spans multiple genres from adventure to puzzle to strategy to action to AR. All games are exclusive to Arcade, meaning that none of them are available on Android, consoles or Steam for PC - at least not yet. Update: Some titles are already starting to appear on Steam.
Most are single-player games but there are also some multi-player titles available at launch, including LEGO Brawls where 4 players can play together and use Apple TV as a scoreboard in the living room. This is probably one of the features that Apple will be eager to highlight. One can imagine how AR (augmented reality) can be leveraged in the future. Can Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox follow Apple down the same path? Perhaps but Apple's advantage is that it has full integration between, and full control over, its mobile, tablet, PC, and TV platforms.
We have played a handful of games but are still exploring. So far, we have found Where Cards Fall, Overland, Oceanhorn 2 and Projection: First Light enjoyable. Is there any must-play games? We have yet to spot any but as said we have only had time to try a handful of them.
Apple says that Arcade will offer access to over 100 titles at launch. We counted 71 titles this morning but the library has been expanding yesterday and today. A game usually takes up between a few hundred megabytes to 2-3 gigabytes.
Are any of the games in 4K, HDR and Atmos? No. Even though Apple supports HDR and Atmos across its recent devices, it has yet to enable HDR and Atmos in its game engine. And the company has yet to announce plans to do so.
Apple's own video gives you a good introduction to the Arcade game library.
PlayStation & Xbox controllers
Arcade offers a handful of titles, including Oceanhorn 2 and Hot Lava, that support game controllers. With iOS 13 and tvOS 13, support will be expanded to PlayStation's DualShock and Xbox Wireless Controller, besides existing support for controllers such as Steelseries Nimbus.
FlatpanelsHD has connected all three controllers to an Apple TV 4K and it works wonderfully. It will be a great addition to Arcade on Apple TV.
Unlike Google's Stadia game service that will launch in November, Arcade is a download-based game service like Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass. The company recently expanded the Apple TV app to Samsung Smart TVs, with wider support planned for later this year. However, Arcade is unlikely to expand to Smart TV platforms since a download-based service has different implications than a streaming service. For now, Arcade is exclusive to the Apple TV - from a TV perspective.
The 5 dollars (or Euro) per month subscription plan gives up to five family members access via family sharing. On iPhone and iPad Arcade is found in the App Store (requires iOS/iPadOS 13), while it will have it own app on Apple TV. If you jump out of a game on Apple TV you can continue on iPhone, iPad or Mac.
Should you subscribe to Arcade? Not if you seek an alternative to PlayStation or Xbox but if you like mobile games we definitely think that you should give it a try. It helps that Arcade has a free trial month and the that subscription price is almost unbelievably low taken the expansive game library into account. Apple Arcade could turn out to be a major success.