Disappearing games are the least of Apple Arcade’s worries
Welcome to our regular collection of all the Apple news you missed this week, in a handy bite-sized roundup. We call it Apple Breakfast because we think it goes great with a morning cup of coffee or tea, but it’s cool if you want to give it a read during lunch or dinner hours too.
Leaving the Arcade
Apple has announced that it’s going to drop a number of games from its Apple Arcade service. You can check out the list of condemned titles by opening the Arcade tab in the App Store and scrolling down to a new section called Leaving Arcade Soon. There are currently 15 titles headed to the chopping block.
This is sad news for fans of Dread Nautical (a turn-based tactical RPG with great atmosphere), Cardpocalypse (a neat card battler with a nice storyline), and the rest of the games headed for the exit door. But it’s probably worth pointing out that most of them would be numbered among the less compelling options on the list: Spidersaurs sits in last place on our Arcade ranking, for example, while Various Daylife can only really be described as busywork. There’s a reason why Apple has reportedly chosen not to renew these particular licenses after three years.
When I first heard about Apple’s plan to add games to Arcade on a regular basis, I assumed that others would disappear at roughly the same rate. That hasn’t been the case; a few have gone, but this is the first time Apple has dropped so many all at once. Even so, the total number of games, even without these 15, will remain far greater than the 100 originally promised.
It was never really sustainable for the service to simply expand and expand without increasing the price. As the number of games increases the amount of time spent on each one inevitably drops, which means Apple is getting less value for its investment. In other words, I don’t have any issue with games vanishing from Arcade, and I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often.
But there are concerns worth raising. The first is that Apple hasn’t handled the announcement very well. At first, nobody knew what would happen to the games after they dropped off the service. Would they remain on the App Store under a separate posting? Would they start to include ads and in-app purchases? Would players be able to hold on to their save data and transfer it to this new version?
A few days later Apple updated a support document (spotted by MacRumors) to clarify some but by no means all of these queries. For one thing, there will be a two-week grace period after a game is removed from Arcade in which players who’ve downloaded the game can carry on playing. For another, save data will be transferrable–if the developer chooses to keep it on the App Store outside of Arcade.
And there are larger issues surrounding Arcade. Namely, what does Apple want the service to be?
At the outset I assumed it was a Hail Mary attempt to save the App Store from the clones and freemium junk it was flooded with: A bold concept in which creative risk-takers would be rewarded by centralized funding, rather than having to depend on download numbers or ad clicks. Instead, Apple got spooked by low engagement numbers and went in hard on classics, remakes and sequels. It became an exercise in rewarding the huge devs that made the App Store what it is, rather than identifying and funding the indie talents that hold the key to the App Store’s future.
The current round of deletions will be saddening to the players who have enjoyed those games, and of course to the developers who made them. But there is a chance here to refocus on Arcade’s mission. Nobody has time to play 200 games; instead, Apple should be curating a unique library of innovative, ground-breaking titles that showcase what the medium can offer. Following the same playbook, in other words, the company used for TV+.
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And with that, we’re done for this week. If you’d like to get regular roundups, sign up for our newsletters. You can also follow us on Twitter for breaking news stories. See you next Saturday, enjoy your weekend, and stay Appley.