Opinion: Apple Arcade follows industry shift to gaming subscriptions

Apple Arcade is Cupertino’s jab at following the industry shift into providing unlimited access to games through a subscription model.

Gaming is among the last of the core entertainment industries to switch to such a model. Music is now primarily accessed through services like Spotify and Apple Music, while video is served by companies such as Netflix and Hulu. Even books are heading in that direction with services Like Kindle Unlimited.

Apple is the first platform-holder to debut the model on mobile. In the console realm, Xbox Game Pass has been an incredible success and even includes games on release from all of Microsoft's growing roster of first-party studios.

The success of Xbox Game Pass is likely the reason behind Microsoft's recent flurry of first-party studio acquisitions. In years prior, the company had to make difficult decisions to axe beloved studios.

It's understandable that Apple has witnessed the success of services like Game Pass and EA Access, and plans to replicate it on mobile.

The biggest advantage is that money can be allocated to support the visions of smaller game developers that may never have otherwise been realised. Free access also ensures more gamers can experience that vision who may never have, and it doesn't have to be affected by unsightly monetisation tactics.

As for mobile gaming in general, it's expected to continue booming. According to a report from ResearchAndMarkets, the market will grow at a CAGR of 21.35% to reach $205.460 billion by 2023.

Epic CEO Tim Sweeney is just as bullish about mobile gaming's potential.

“Platform decisions are overrated," said Sweeney in an interview with Business Insider. "It's what we see on 'Fortnite,' so many of these gamers play on a variety of devices, so you can't say they're a mobile gamer or a console gamer. They're just a gamer.”

With game streaming technology coming of age, through services like Google Stadia and Microsoft xCloud, that line between mobile and console/PC gamer is blurring even further. A subscription combined with streaming would provide instant access to games without dealing with individual payments, ads, and long downloads.

Of course, the subscription model requires good management on Apple's part to allocate resources and ensure some developers are not losing out in favour of others. Only time will tell if that's the case, but it's clear that game subscriptions are the way the industry is heading.

Apple Arcade will launch this fall with over 100 exclusive games. It will be available in 150+ countries.

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