About a week ago, Apple released iOS 13 for its mobile devices, and with it the vaunted Apple Arcade platform. The idea here is that instead of buying cheap/free (and heavily monetized) titles that are littering up the App Store, Apple Arcade would offer an all-you-can-play buffet of curated, high-quality titles for $5 a month.
And the first month is free. That’s how they get ya.
I checked it out just because I’ll take advantage of almost any trial that’s set in front of my face. So far? I’m kind of impressed. There definitely is a nice initial selection of titles, some of which I recognize from other platforms as moderately priced titles (such as Sayonara Wild Hearts and Overland). And there was a giddy moment when I just downloaded all the ones that I wanted to check out.
Of course, I don’t own these games. I don’t have any right to them. They exist on my phone as long as my subscription does, and when that free month goes poof, so will they.
There’s the trade-off for this kind of model. You get good quality, all you can enjoy, but like most subscriptions, you only can access it as long as you’re paying that monthly fee. And while the fee here is pretty low, I’m more than aware how multiple subscriptions can start to pile up.
Is it worth it? It’s definitely a good value, and I think Apple is going to see strong sales with this service. But its worth is a subjective matter. I’m sure I’d get five bucks of gaming enjoyment each month from it, but I already have so many other games on these devices I haven’t even played and some favorites I play every day that there’s not a huge demand in my lifestyle for a glut of high-quality titles on my phone or tablet.
For me, there’s also that psychological barrier between renting and owning entertainment. Apart from subscription-based MMOs, I don’t usually like to rent my games when I have the option to own them (even if that ownership is purely digital and could theoretically be taken away if the company decides to do such). My Audible subscription, as a point of comparison, doesn’t yank away all of my purchased books once the sub is up. I have that feeling of ownership and permanence that I won’t have with Apple Arcade. I also prefer to purchase TV seasons on DVD or through Amazon Video that I can access any time, sub-free.
It’s a small thing and not really worth getting worked up about, but we’re definitely heading into a future where such subscription services are going to be pushing all-you-can-consume entertainment… as long as you keep paying that monthly fee. I’m not quite on board with that.