Apple has created a monster. Free games have taken over the iOS app store, creating a market dominated by fraudulent timers and cheap monetization schemes, which could not be fixed with a number of game design, healing and quality promotion. But now (after years of benefiting from this system), Apple is here with the supposed cure: Apple Arcade.
Apple Arcade promises dozens of high-end premium games that will focus solely on entertainment or art, not on squeezing players' money. the kind of games that have struggled to find a place in the modern economy of app stores. No ads, no blocking timers, no in-app purchases, no Internet connections always available. Pay Apple a monthly fee and promise access to 100 titles that will not be available anywhere else, plus a multiplatform game that allows you to collect and play on your Mac, your iPhone or your Apple TV. And Apple is investing heavily in the service, not only paying for exclusive titles, but also helping to finance the development. It sounds like an interesting proposal on the surface, a combination of the most attractive features of Xbox Game Pass and Nintendo's Switch, with its ability to work both in motion and on the big screen.
But can Apple really put that in freedom? Play genie again in the bottle with Arcade?
Before we can find out if Apple Arcade is the cure, we must first check how things got so bad. Everything goes back to October 15, 2009, when Apple sent an email to its developers and announced that, from that day, free applications would also be allowed to offer purchases within the application, which opens the door to the abundance of free games. That would soon take over the App Store. It was a quick change for Apple, which had originally limited purchases from the application to paid apps when it launched the show in June of the same year. Or as the then executive vice president of iOS software Scott Forstall presented it at WWDC 2009: "The purchase from the application is only for paid applications: free applications remain free."
It took almost no time for the developers to react: the premium platform game Rolando 2 for example, took advantage of the new rules to offer a free demo of the full game, allowing players to buy more levels at the letter if they enjoyed the test. But other games, such as Ngmoco's first-person shooter Eliminate changed to a different free game model, offering a timer system that would limit the players' rewards unless they accumulate real cash. In the case of Eliminate there was no limit to the number of players who could play the game, but once they ran out of an assigned resource in the game, they could not make any additional progress or unlock new items until They waited for a timer to reset or, if they paid, they could continue playing immediately. Obviously, one of those models won, to the point where the main titles of today, like Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery still depend on him to get money from impatient players who are eager to continue playing.
At that time, racing began: in January 2011, the analytics firm Flurry had estimated that free games represented 39 percent of revenue per game on iOS. By June 2011, that number was up to 65 percent, eclipsing premium paid titles. The following year he would see the release of freemium juggernauts as Candy Crush Saga (estimated to have raised more than $ 3.91 billion) and Clash of Clans (estimated at $ 6.4 billion), which out of the gold rush of free games created around similar mechanics.
Today, free games dominate iOS lists, at least when it comes to money: Apple's highest-grossing list has a single paid title, Minecraft – that, as one of the most popular The games in the world and with the property of Microsoft, are no longer exactly an indie love, with the rest of the money coming from in-app purchases in free games. App Annie's estimations delve into things: of the 50 best games, 49 are free ( Minecraft is again the only outlier, at number 48 on the lists). And the Sensor Tower lists only show another title paid in the 250 best collection games in the App Store – Bloons TD 6, in the number 202.
Apple's previous push towards augmented reality He did not do much to break the free-to-play block. The tables of higher collection are largely the same as ever. And it's not that the premium titles are failing completely, because the App Store is divided into free and paid graphics, along with the Apple administration of the App Store, there is still a place for those paid titles, but the way That money flows, They just are not a focus for the major developers. Why do you create a paid version of your game (even if that title is superior from a pure game perspective) when you can create a free version that allows you to earn a lot more money? Even Apple is not immune: eliminate those IAP and highlights a lot of free games in the App Store along with payments. Remember when Apple asked you to pre-register for Pokémon Go ?
Some games, such as Monument Valley 2 have still been able to achieve success in the classification in the face of the stagnation of free-to-play. But Monument Valley 2 also had essentially everything in its favor: it was the long-awaited sequel to a popular game, it was announced and it stood out in Apple's opening speech, and it received maximum billing in the new iOS app 11. Store, that Apple had redesigned specifically to allow to highlight new games and applications. And despite all that, the head of the Ustwo studio, Dan Gray, commented to The Verge last year, "I think it has stabilized," in reference to the premium market. Ultimately, these types of success stories are exceptions instead of the rule, and there is a very different bar for success in the paid mobile space compared to the free game side.
While the developers are cautiously optimistic that Apple Arcade could turn the tide on premium games, there are still many unanswered questions about how it will work, how much it will cost, what the Apple trim will be and what revenue the divisions will look like. there is a concern that the service may cannibalize sales of paid games in the future, or create a higher barrier to entry for less established developers at the expense of raising known and established brands.
None of this is particularly a problem for Apple: it requires a cut of 30 percent of all purchases in the App Store, either extra lives in Candy Crush or full downloads of High & # 39; s Odyssey . But Arcade represents an idealistic approach for Apple; is a company that wants to be known for encouraging creativity and art, not assaulting the pockets of their customers by quarters to finish a faster building in Clash of Clans . (A similar thread ran through the exaggerated announcement of the Apple TV Plus broadcast service, too). And especially now, with the growing concern about the addictive free game mechanics that really cause damage, it's easy to see why Apple would want to get away from that kind of games.
And maybe Apple Arcade can help with that, providing a new source of revenue for the company that allows you to highlight the best games on your platform, not just the best ones to run ads and earn money. However, if Arcade can kill the monster that Apple has created, it will have to wait until we can see it in action later this year.