Developers concerned about Apple Arcade future – report


A number of developers have said they are concerned about the future of Apple Arcade, with one person stating there is “the smell of death” around the mobile game subscription service.


A source told mobilegamer.biz that Apple had “cancelled a shitload of projects and pissed off a lot of people” following a ‘reboot’ of the subscription in 2021. Other sources, meanwhile, said the company had been steadily cutting developer payouts and upfront fees over recent years.


“We’re going to see that amount and decrease and decrease and decrease until it’s pennies,” one developer told the publication. “At that point putting a game on Arcade starts to become much less viable.” Reportedly, when Apple Arcade launched in 2019, it was a different story, with “very generous” upfront and per-play payments.

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In addition, sources said Apple seems to be eschewing original games in favour of family-friendly games with a big IP attached, but it has not made that direction clear to developers. One studio boss stated they had received positive feedback for one of their games, only for Apple to then withdraw interest citing a change in strategy. When the affected developer asked for more details, Apple reportedly stopped replying.


Others said they had met with Apple to discuss adding their games to the service, but were left unsure of the direction the company was taking. “I got the sense they didn’t really know where they were going with it all – almost like they weren’t sure if they’d have jobs at the end of it,” one studio boss said.


This communication issue is also reportedly affecting developers asking about declining payments. Mobilegamer.biz said Apple had “been evasive around how its bonus pool payments are calculated”.


“They have this opaque metric that they call a qualifying session, and bonus pool payments are made based on that,” said one source. “But no-one knows what a qualifying session actually is – it has something to do with if the game was launched, how long the player played for and how often they return. But it’s a black box, really.”

Another studio boss told the publication they believe Apple needs leadership to sort out Arcade’s issues, but there is no “passion and respect” for games. “It all depends on how much buy-in there is from those guys at the top, and I don’t think they really value Arcade or invest in it the same way you see them invest in music or TV,” they said.


Despite this, other sources seem more optimistic that Apple may be able to turn things around, suggesting that the impact Netflix has made in the subscription gaming space has prompted the company to consider another Arcade reboot.


“I really hope Netflix continues doing what they’re doing because it is requiring Apple to continue to try to be relevant and competitive,” a source told the publication. “Google also needs to come to the space with something compelling – Google Play Pass is actually pretty good for developers, but is marketed terribly.”


It’s not all doom and gloom, though. One source said, “despite its imperfections”, they were “very very happy Arcade exists”. “It has made premium games viable on mobile,” they said.


Elsewhere in Apple Arcade related news, What the Golf? developer Triband is bringing its absurdist racing game What the Car? to Steam later this year, following a period of time as an Arcade exclusive.


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