During GDC this past March, Apple dropped a bombshell when they announced Apple Arcade, a premium gaming subscription service that would grant subscribers access to more than 100 games across their iOS, Apple TV, and Mac devices. A premium gaming service had been rumored for some time, but what I found most shocking about the Apple Arcade announcement (besides the fact that Apple was doing something serious with gaming) was that Apple themselves would be ponying up the dough to help their hand-picked selection of developers to create games for the service, apparently to the tune of half a billion dollars or so. While specifics around how these deals are structured are few, it sort of seems that Apple was turning their money hose onto some of the most talented developers around and just spraying them with cash to create cool things for Apple Arcade. It’s unclear how much, if any, say-so Apple has in how these games are created, unlike how many traditional publishers operate. And, while every game on Apple Arcade must be exclusive to the service for at least some nebulous amount of time, many have already been announced to be coming to multiple platforms in the future. So in a very strange way Apple has become sort of a multi-platform video game financial backer. Which is weird.
Anyway, Apple had announced that Apple Arcade would be launching in the fall of this year, and it was pretty easy to assume that would be alongside the launch of iOS 13 and the new iPhones, which is set to happen next month (all signs are pointing to the iPhone event being on September 10th). So a launch date was never really in question, but what people HAVE been wondering is what the pricing scheme would be for Apple Arcade. Well over the weekend the folks over at 9to5Mac were actually able to get in on an Apple Arcade internal test that Apple is running for its employees right now, and if you check out their story you can actually see a glimpse of what Apple Arcade will look like (well, on a Mac at least). Then over the next couple of days 9to5Mac dug into some of the technical aspects of the Apple Arcade test version and have come across some promotional messaging that is suggesting the monthly subscription fee will be $4.99.
That price is about what I was expecting it to be. Another popular guess was that it would be $9.99 like Apple Music and the newer Apple News+ services are. I would also guess Apple TV+ would be that same price when it launches and so it would make sense for Apple Arcade to follow suit, and would set up some pretty sweet bundling discount options too. However, as popular as games are and as much money as they haul in for Apple, that’s almost completely due to the rise of free to play gaming. People just don’t expect to pay for games on their phone, unless it’s death by a thousand 99¢ IAP paper cuts. The prospect of spending the industry standard $10 a month for phone gaming likely wouldn’t win over the mainstream audience, but $5 seems a bit more palatable. And if you’re serious about mobile gaming and you actively seek out the great premium games that get released (and there are a lot of them) then you’re easily spending more than five bucks a month on sometimes just a couple of games. That same price getting you access to 100+ premium, no ad and no IAP games is a pretty awesome deal, I think.
Of course, because this all still is technically in the testing phase, and Apple hasn’t officially announced any sort of pricing, this is all subject to change. But my money is on the $4.99 a month being correct. And if Apple offers some sort of bundle plan, well then serious premium gaming may just be an included bonus for a ton of people who subscribe to their other services anyway, and hopefully that sort of thing can get more people interested in the potential of mobile as a seriously great gaming platform. I can’t wait for the iPhone event next month.