Apple Arcade: The new norm in mobile gaming

Apple Arcade | +180 games available
Apple Arcade | +180 games available

In September 2019, Apple launched its Apple Arcade subscription service. For a small monthly fee, iOS users could download and play up to 50 game apps. Unlike other Apple Store offerings, games in the Apple Arcade aren’t subject to in-app purchases and microtransactions.

The move was a response to the sudden halt of the mobile app boom, which tanked between 2015 and 2016. Top apps like WhatsApp and Instagram saw up to 20% declines in downloads, according to Business Insider.

It seemed mobile apps, and games, in particular, had reached maturation. Users were loyal to a single app; daily usage rates remained the same for many apps, but new downloads stopped coming in.

The Apple Arcade subscription responded by compiling some of the most popular and innovative games in the Apple Store. Many were existing hits, such as Fruit Ninja and Monument Valley, filed under the ‘Timeless Classics’ section.

Others were unique creations from Apple’s partnership with developers, including LEGO Brawls, SpongeBob: Patty Pursuit, and Sneaky Sasquatch. Today, Apple Arcade features over 180 titles, but there are few missing games that many mobile champions would expect to see under the ‘Timeless Classics’ section, from snake to solitaire.

Apple Arcade catalog | +180 games available

Early 2000s classics phasing out

Snake was one of the first mobile app hits — before many knew what an ‘app’ was. The game was released on Nokia devices back in 1997 alongside two other games titled Logic and Memory.

Snake may have been the earliest form of in-phone gaming, but solitaire quickly gained steam once developers could create advanced games and graphics. Oddly enough, creating recognizable cards was a difficult task, as differentiating suit symbols like hearts and spades was a challenge on early devices.

The first game was part of a Microsoft bundle back in 1990. In 2005, Nintendo looked back to its earliest roots as a playing card manufacturer and added solitaire to its Clubhouse Games series for Nintendo Switch devices.

Soon, it became a staple for mobile and desktop gamers alongside minesweeper and snake. Apple Arcade gives a nod back to one of the first stellar gaming apps with its Solitaire Stories game. Gamers are treated to a lot more than just cards, too.

There are storylines to keep players interested, along with varied deck designs, daily challenges, and engaging humor. For solitaire purists, there’s likely too much fanfare involved in the simple game that’s been played for centuries—but at least it’s part of the Apple Arcade suite.

Snake wasn’t so fortunate.

Apple Arcade | iPhone controller

Renaissance of classic games

The world of mobile gaming has changed dramatically in the last few years. Since 2000, smartphone users have had access to apps depending on which device they use. Though limited at first, the number and diversity of games have evolved along with mobile technology.

Apple Arcade and similar subscription services are looking to spearhead how mobile games are packaged and marketed. They’re looking to compete with the rising number of console and PC games that are launching mobile apps, as well as other subscription game services.

For example, PUBG is the highest-grossing and best-selling video game series of all time. As a major player in terms of eSports competitions and console gaming, there was a huge push to offer players a mobile option.

In 2018, developers launched PUBG Mobile for Android and iOS devices. Today, PUBG Mobile is the most played mobile game with over 1 billion downloads, according to Game Press. Call of Duty followed afterwards with Call of Duty: Mobile, released in October 2019. As of October 2020, the game had 300 million downloads and was the 14th most played mobile game in the world.

Apple Arcade iPhone icon

Despite Apple Arcade curating mobile games and the ongoing interest in mobile adaptations of console games, there’s plenty of interest in the bare-bones classics from the early 2000s. Snake now has simple variations available in both the Apple and Google Play stores. There are new versions, too, like Worms Zone.

Other apps are looking to go further back than 1997, too, drawing on physical arcade games like Mega Man and Space Invaders. Though not quite as popular as Sega’s Sonic Dash app from 2013 (the 10th most-played app in the world, according to Pocket Gamer), Sonic the Hedgehog Classic from Sega is available for download.

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