Updated, 3/25/19, 11 a.m. PT: Apple announced the new Apple Arcade service, for playing games on Mac, iPad, iPhone and Apple TV, during its keynote address today in Cupertino, California. The company didn't say how much the service would cost and only offered a release timeframe of this fall, but it did explore what Apple Arcade has to offer. Apple said the service will include more than 100 titles at launch that can be played offline, don't feature any advertisements and don't rely on in-app purchases. They'll also synchronize progress as people move between Apple devices. Apple said it plans to financially support developers participating in the program, the list of which includes the likes of Sega, Konami, and Lego, among others. More information is available on Apple's site.
Original article, 3/23/19, 3:10 p.m. PT:
Apple wants to rely less on hardware sales. People around the world have stopped upgrading to the latest hardware every year, and while the company still makes a lot of money, investors aren't particularly well-known for settling for less. Bloomberg reported today that Apple plans to appease these shareholders by revealing various subscription offerings related to news, television, and gaming during a March 25 keynote.
Reports about Apple's increasing focus on services have been popping up for a while now. The company's said to have reduced its investment in autonomous cars, for example, while pushing to make the Siri virtual assistant better. Its efforts to introduce a television service have also been well-documented; it's probably the worst-kept secret at Apple. (Though it might have to compete with an augmented reality headset for that title.)
We're particularly interested in the upcoming gaming service. Seemingly every tech company is working on three kinds of gaming subscription offerings: those that offer unlimited access to vast libraries of games, those that stream games to enable better performance on low-powered devices, and those that combine both approaches. According to Bloomberg's report, Apple is poised to introduce one of the first kinds of service.
Bloomberg said that Apple's gaming service would offer access to iPhone and iPad games for a monthly fee that's divvied up between their developers. The service will reportedly include "premium" games that normally cost a one-time fee, rather than "freemium" games that rely on in-app purchases. Apple will collect the monthly fee, divide the developers' cut based on how often their games were played, and keep the rest.
Although the comparison is beyond tired--we're sicker of writing it than you are of reading it--the approach seems like Apple's building a "Netflix for games." That makes sense for its first effort: this is exactly what the company did when it introduced the Apple Music streaming service despite selling music via iTunes. Apple basically wants to have it both ways by offering a traditional storefront (the App Store) as well as a subscription.
Still, it would have been interesting if the company had gone the other way by offering a game streaming platform similar to Google Stadia. Most of Apple's products feature integrated GPUs, and even for the ones with dedicated graphics, many developers focus exclusively on Windows. Giving people a way to play more games on their Mac without having to install Windows would probably be welcomed by many of Apple's customers.
But the offering as Bloomberg described it also fits with Apple's other plans. It currently offers Apple Music, and if the reports are correct, it will soon offer a news reading service and television platform as well. Applying the same business model across various types of media is easier than figuring out how to stream games to various devices. (Especially when Apple isn't particularly well known for smooth cloud-based service launches.)
We should find out more during Apple's March 25 event, but Bloomberg said the company might also wait until WWDC in June, so we might have to wait a few months for more information. Either way, the company's shift to offering more subscription-based services is monumental. Even an iOS-only gaming service is huge, too, considering how large the mobile gaming market has become. Hopefully, we learn more in a few days.