Back in March GameClub announced their intentions to the world, and our former Editor in Chief Eli Hodapp announced that he would be leaving TouchArcade after ten years and joining those efforts. What are those efforts you might be asking? Well, GameClub hopes to bring back many of the classic premium mobile games that have been lost to time over the past ten years, either due to compatibility problems with Apple’s hardware or software or due to a developer not having the means to continue maintaining the game for modern requirements. In just the two months or so since that announcement, GameClub has signed on more than 50 different games for their service, and by way of an Early Access program ran through Apple’s Testflight beta testing service players have been able to take some of these resurrected titles for an early spin.
A new title hits the Early Access program every week, and so far we’ve seen a return of such amazing mobile games as Hook Champ, Sword of Fargoal, Incoboto, Plunderland, and more. For those of us who were around when those games were new, being able to revisit them again is a shot of nostalgia and a reminder of just how many amazing experiences have graced the App Store over the years despite its terrible reputation from the larger gaming world of being filled with nothing but crap. More importantly is that a service like GameClub gives players who weren’t around for these titles a chance to experience them for the first time, and not only enjoy an excellent game but also see the historical value of these games that are by some of today’s biggest indie developers. For example, Rocketcat Games got super popular with Death Road to Canada, and it’s extremely awesome to be able to go back and see their roots with games like Hook Champ and Super Quickhook.
GameClub’s focus has been strictly on bringing back premium games, and they’ve received an overwhelmingly positive response since their unveiling to the world back in March, especially by those who know how many quality games have been on mobile over the years and by those who feel jaded by the free to play world that exists in the modern App Store. There’s really only been one huge question hanging over the whole thing: How will GameClub make money? Or more specifically, how will gamers pay for these resurrected titles? We now have an answer, as revealed by GameClub to FastCompany earlier today. GameClub will run on a subscription model similar to Apple’s own Apple Arcade service which is set to launch later this fall.
CEO of GameClub Dan Sherman thinks that the subscription model is “the next emerging trend in games" and that it “has the potential to be every bit as large as in-app purchases, or the ad market." While some people will instantly shun a subscription model right from the gate, I feel like that’s a bit of a myopic view. And hey, I get the notion of “subscription fatigue" as someone who subscribes to Netflix, HBO, Apple Music, Hulu, Twitch Prime, etc. I mean the last thing I’m ever looking to add to my life is another thing to subscribe to. But at the same time, at least with a subscription you KNOW what you’re paying upfront and you know what you’re getting in return. I can’t say the same thing about a freemium game, where it may or may not be “fair" and it’ll take you months of your life to even find out. More often than not a freemium game you get heavily into turns into a money pit whether you’re planning on it or not.
There’s another huge aspect to the subscription model though, and I think most people don’t tend to think about it: Sustainability. We live in a time where it’s just expected that games will receive updates after they launch. It’s great because if a nasty bug or ten sneak into a game, you’re not stuck with a physical version that can never be fixed. And of course that also means game experiences can grow by way of content updates, and it’s also pretty much expected that new content will be added to every game after it launches nowadays. The problem is that updates, whether bug fixing or adding content, cost time and money. A mobile game that sold for a one-time price of a dollar or two can’t be continually updated until the end of time. But that’s what they NEED in this day and age of frequent software and hardware updates.
So as much as many of us who grew up just buying a game for a fixed price might struggle with the notion of a subscription service, the model suits modern games. You’re not just subscribing to something like GameClub so you can play a library of old games, but you’re subscribing to create a sustainable revenue stream that ensures these games can remain updated and playable into the future, and that more and more new games can be added to the service down the road. Of course there’s also the elephant in the room that is Apple Arcade, another gaming subscription service launching this year. But I think, at least for the time being, GameClub and Apple Arcade are offering pretty different experiences. The former focuses on bringing back classics with modern updates, while the latter is focused on strictly brand new games. They should actually complement each other rather well.
Much like Apple Arcade, no pricing has been announced for the GameClub subscription service, but Sherman does go into several more details about the company in the article over on FastCompany, so definitely give that a read. I’d also love to know what you all think about subscription models and the direction of GameClub. Would you subscribe to it? Will you be subscribing to Apple Arcade? Would you subscribe to BOTH? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.