Apple Takes Big Swing at Gaming as Subscription Service Arcade Launches

Courtesy of Apple
Apple's Arcade titles (clockwise from top left): 'Frogger in Toy Town,' 'Chu Chu Rocket! Universe,' 'Oceanhorn 2,' 'Where Cards Fall'

With 100 new titles available to play across all the company's devices, the new offering is a major step for the tech giant into the video game industry.

Apple is extending its subscription reach from music and news to gaming.

With an active install base of 1.4 billion devices worldwide, the Silicon Valley tech giant offers a considerable platform and, with the launch of its Apple Arcade service on Thursday, has signaled to the gaming industry that it is a major player in the booming marketplace. 

While Apple has been in gaming for over a decade (the company launched its first mobile games Texas Hold'em and Super Monkey Ball in 2008), its new Arcade subscription service is a high-profile, public-facing pivot that quickly caught the eyes of many in the video game industry when it was first unveiled in March.

Launching with over 60 new titles (a number that will grow to 100 over the next few weeks) from industry heavyweights such as Square Enix, Sega and Konami, alongside games from indie darlings such as Annapurna Interactive, Apple Arcade is avoiding a slow rollout and hitting the market as a fully baked offering right from the start.

"It’s a big turning point in history," Ryan Cash, founder of indie game developer Snowman, tells The Hollywood Reporter. Snowman, best known for the mobile snowboarding game Alto's Adventure, has two new games on Apple Arcade: Where Cards Fall, a narrative-driven puzzler, and Skate City, a touch-controlled skateboarding title. 

A family subscription to Apple Arcade, which allows access for up to six members, costs $5 per month. The games can be played across any of Apple's devices and progress is saved via the iCloud, which allows for players to begin a game on their iPhone, set it down and pick up where they left off on their iPad or Apple TV. Titles can also be played offline. 

"It's hard to tell now what Apple Arcade will mean for the industry," says Simon Flesser, co-founder of Simogo, the Swedish developer behind Sayonara Wild Hearts, one of Apple Arcade's launch titles. "It's an interesting time ahead and I'm really eager to see how Arcade pans out and what it will mean, especially in terms of financing games in the future if subscription services become more of a norm as they have with other forms of media."

Among the new titles bowing on Apple Arcade are a slate of familiar faces, such as Ubisoft's Rayman (returning for a new platforming adventure in Rayman Mini) and Konami's Frogger (Frogger in Toy Town).

"Rayman is the perfect brand and game for Apple Arcade as it has worldwide appeal, is beloved by players of all ages and will challenge and entertain all players, big and small,” says Abdelhak Elguess, senior producer at Ubisoft Montpellier.

Other titles include Hot Lava, from Canadian developer Klei Entertainment, a new take on the classic "floor is lava" game of many's childhoods; ATONE: Heart of the Elder Tree, from New Zealand-based Wildboy Studios, a fantastical adventure full of mythical beasts and beings; Cardpocalypse, from publisher Versus Evil, a social card game with a single-player role-playing adventure set in the 1990s; a new Chu Chu Rocket! puzzle game from Sega; Lego Brawls, a light-hearted team action brawler; Down in Bermuda, from indie game developer Yak & Co, a quirkly family-friendly adventure puzzler; Oceanhorn 2, a follow-up to Cornfox & Brothers 2013 action-adventure game; Overland, a post-apocalyptic turn-based survival game from Night in the Woods' developer Finji; Sayonara Wild Hearts, a high-throttle music-based adventure from Annapurna Interactive; and many more.

"It’s cool to see Apple putting their name on things in a way that they haven’t before," says Cash. "It will allow developers to be very creative and take risks that they wouldn’t be able to otherwise. We're going to see a lot more experimental things in gaming that may not have been made otherwise."

While the roster of games is diverse — in genre, aesthetic and gameplay — there is a common throughline of accessibility and brightness to Apple Arcade's lineup. In Projection: First Light, from Blowfish Studios, players search for lost art with shadow-puppet characters aided by legendary heroes from each culture they explore; Capcom's Shinsekai: Into the Depths explores a colorful sunken waterscape filled with ruins of past civilizations; and Sneaky Sasquatch and Spek, both developed by RAC7, have players controlling either the titular wily great mountain ape or solving vibrant puzzles (in AR), respectively.

Racing games like Speed Demons, from indie dev Radiangames, and Super Impossible Road, developed by Hexaflip maker Rogue Games, offer different spins on fast-paced action, while Noodlecake Studios' The Enchanted World and Illusion Lab's Way of the Turtle present more magical, slower-paced puzzle and adventure experiences.

"We’re excited to see what this new wave of gaming will look like," says Cash. "In video games, most people haven’t yet played something that’s left a lasting impact on them. There are games like this, but in a lot of cases they’re only available for PC or PlayStation, and we want to reach new audiences. That’s the magic of Apple, everyone has these devices."