How Apple Arcade changed mobile gaming in 2019

Apple Arcade made it evident that the tech giant pays attention to the details.

Shelby Brown Editor II
Shelby Brown (she/her/hers) is an editor for CNET's services team. She covers tips and tricks for apps, operating systems and devices, as well as mobile gaming and Apple Arcade news. Shelby also oversees Tech Tips coverage. Before joining CNET, she covered app news for Download.com and served as a freelancer for Louisville.com.
  • She received the Renau Writing Scholarship in 2016 from the University of Louisville's communication department.
Shelby Brown
3 min read

A game controller connected to an iPad, playing Shinsekai Into the Depths.

James Martin/CNET

This story is part of CNET's coverage of Apple Arcade, including exclusive first looks we got at some of the service's high-profile new games.

In 2019, Apple took steps beyond premium device hardware and software and firmly established itself as a services powerhouse -- particularly when it comes to gaming . The tech giant came out swinging in September with its dedicated gaming subscription service, Apple Arcade. With a $4.99 (£4.99, AU$7.99) monthly subscription, users get access to over 100 games that are playable on iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Apple TV. Some games have started rolling out for Mac as well. 

Here's the video of the reveal from Apple's spring event in case you missed it: 

Watch this: Apple reveals Apple Arcade, a new subscription gaming service

Apple Arcade so far 

Apple's first foray into subscription gaming has been well-received: From the start, it marketed itself as an accessible gaming platform. It was released in September alongside iOS 13's public beta with multiple games ready to play. 

By November, the Apple Arcade catalog had grown to more than 100 games, with more released every week. All games are exclusive to Apple Arcade on on iOS -- you can't get them on the wider App Store, though some are on other platforms -- and they're all free of ads or in-app purchases. They include Noodlecake's The Enchanted World, Snowman's Where Cards Fall and Annapurna Interactive's Sayonara Wild Hearts (which was named Apple Arcade Game of the Year). 

Apple's growing catalog includes something for everyone with genres for puzzle games, family games, mystery games, nostalgic games and more. Just this week it dropped the arcade sports mashup Ultimate Rivals: The Rink, announced at The Game Awards in a sign that Apple is trying to appeal to core gamers. Three of the five nominees for Best Mobile Game at the glitzy awards show are on Apple Arcade, too: Sayonara Wild Hearts, Grindstone and What the Golf?

Read more: Apple Arcade review: Mobile gaming gets a massive upgrade for $5 a month

CNET got exclusive looks at some of the games like The Enchanted World, Where Cards Fall and Shinsekai into the Depths. 

Watch this: Apple Arcade exclusive preview: Shinsekai Into the Depths

Some games we're still looking forward to include The Pathless, also from Annapurna Interactive, Revolution Software's Beyond a Steel Sky and Little Orpheus from The Chinese Room.

Apple Arcade vs. Google Stadia: No comparison

Apple Arcade looked like it was going to give Stadia, Google's new cloud-gaming platform, a run for its money, but when examined closer, it doesn't make sense to compare the two services. Whether you chose Apple Arcade or Google Stadia depends on what type of gamer you are. 

Stadia is geared toward serious gamers who are invested in major series like Destiny, Assassin's Creed, Wolfenstein or Final Fantasy. (And even they should probably hold off, at least for a while.) But if you're looking for something for you or your family to play on a weekend, Apple Arcade is probably the better option. While Stadia still has games to add, Apple Arcade has established itself as a lifestyle gaming service from Day 1. 

There's also the price benefit: For a casual gamer, or someone with kids who impatiently jump from game to game, Arcade costs $60 a year, while many new games for Stadia and other platforms cost $60 each. On the downside, you won't see popular, "AAA" games on Arcade like those released on Stadia. But if you're looking for fun, inventive mobile games with a lot of variety, you likely won't miss those major titles anyway. 


Playing Sayonara Wild Hearts with an Apple TV remote. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

What Arcade means for Apple 

A dedicated gaming service is new territory for Apple, but the subscription aspect isn't entirely surprising. The tech giant has been slowly laying the building blocks when it comes to services: This year it launched its Apple Card credit card, Apple TV Plus subscription streaming service and Apple News Plus news subscription service. Among all of these, Apple Arcade stands as the most polished service that offers the clearest value, CNET noted in its review.

Apple also likely knows that mobile games and casual games are where most of the growth is in gaming, and planting the flag with Arcade will give it a bigger piece of that pie moving forward. 

Apple isn't a perfect company, but its executives have always appeared to plan, thoughtfully and unrushed, a few steps ahead. It's likely that we will see more subscriptions and services become available in 2020 from Apple and its competitors, as Apple Arcade's catalog of games continues to grow.  

Watch this: Apple Arcade is changing video games for $5 a month

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