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Gaming

Apple Arcade vs. Google Stadia: Gaming services face off

Here’s how Apple’s new gaming service measures up to Google’s platform

apple-introduces-apple-arcade-apple-tv-ipad-pro-iphone-xs-macbook-pro-03252019

Arcade, on Mac, iPad and iPhone.

Apple

Apple's plan is you let you play games on iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV devices. Google wants you to stream games anywhere you can find its Chrome browser. And while we know a little more than that about Apple's Arcade game subscription service and Google's Stadia cloud gaming platform, we have way more questions than answers about which one may be right for your gaming style and give you more for your money.

This week, at an event full of sweeping announcements that included magazine subscriptions and a credit card, Apple unveiled Arcade, a gaming subscription service that will start with more than 100 games exclusive to the service. Unlike Google's Stadia, Apple Arcade isn't about streaming. Players will download the games to play on their Apple devices, offline or online.

The week before Apple's event, Google announced its streaming game service at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco. Called Stadia, Google's gaming service will work a bit like Netflix, where you can stream games to your PC, Chromebook, phone, tablet, TV -- anything that can run the Chrome browser. Google also will have a Stadia game controller that will connect via Wi-Fi to Google's services and offer dedicated buttons for sharing gameplay on YouTube and for seeking gaming help with a Google Assistant button. You'll be able to your own controller, too.

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Sonic Racing from SEGA on Arcade.

Apple

For Apple, the push into gaming is part of a larger effort to provide services tied to its hardware. Its games service, video-streaming platform and even Apple Music all are compelling reasons to remain loyal to Apple's world and use an Apple device. For Google, it's about the cloud, and its gaming platform plays to its strengths, letting players take part in cloud-based gaming and then share gameplay through YouTube.

That's the big picture. Here is what we do -- and mostly don't yet -- know about the platforms.

When they're coming

Apple said Arcade will launch this fall. Google seems to stick to a similar time frame, and it would have more to say this summer.

For what it's worth, Google had Stadia up and running in its booth at GDC for conventioneers to play with. In the short time I got to play a game through Stadia, the service seem solid, and I couldn't tell I was streaming a game instead of playing it locally.

We caught a glimpse of the service late last year, when Google had a beta version of the service running under the name Project Stream.

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Google Stadia, in action.

Google

How much they'll cost

While neither company has talked much about price, Apple acknowledged that its service will be available through a subscription with no in-app purchases.

Google didn't say anything about how users will pay to play. However, one of its partners offered a hint.

"I think we will have a multitude of ways," Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot told GameSpot about the cost of Stadia. "Either you buy full price and you play; or you will be able to also register, possibly, to play either one hour or two hours a day. There will be plenty of ways," Guillemot suggested.

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Projection: First Light from Blowfish Studios, coming to Arcade.

Apple

Who will make the games

Google said it's working with a range of game developers -- including Ubisoft and ID Software -- to deliver games to Stadia. At GDC, Ubisoft showed off Assassin's Creed: Odyssey and ID demoed Doom Eternal on Stadia. Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed: Odyssey has been with Google since Stadia was still known as Project Stream. If you were part of the Project Stream beta, you played it last year.

Google is also opening its own game studio but didn't offer details on games it has in the works. Stadia will have exclusive games as well as ones available elsewhere.

Apple said all Arcade games will be exclusive to the new program and won't be available on other mobile devices or part of other subscription services. Arcade will include games from Annapurna Interactive, Bossa Studios, Cartoon Network, Finji, Giant Squid, Klei Entertainment, Konami, Lego, Mistwalker Corporation, SEGA, Snowman and Ustwo. Apple is also getting into the game-design business and said it's contributing to the development costs of games coming to the service.

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Enter The Construct by Directive Games Limited, on Arcade.

Apple

Which service is for you?

It's way too early to say for sure. But if you like console games and have a good internet connection, based on what Google showed at GDC, Stadia might be a good fit with its controller-driven service. If you're a casual gamer or attracted to indie games, Apple's approach might be a better choice.

Apple Arcade vs. Google Stadia


Apple Arcade Google Stadia
Release date This fall This year, with more info this summer
Price You'll subscribe, but nothing about price. Google was silent on pricing.
Devices
Phone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV devices Anything with an internet connection and Chrome browser
Controller No
Yes
Number of games 100 exclusive games to start Unknown, but a mix of exclusive and general
Mentioned Above
Apple iPad 2018 (space gray, 32GB)
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