Apple Arcade: One year later

Mini Motorways on Apple Arcade
Mini Motorways on Apple Arcade (Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

It's been over a year since Apple Arcade promised to change the mobile gaming landscape forever, and while it might not have completely changed everything, it appears to be going strong. With new games added constantly, older games getting updates, and the basic premise of hundreds of games for only $5 a month intact, Apple Arcade remains a compelling service even after a year.

As much as I love Apple Arcade, I don't actually ship out that $5 every month as I'm sure Apple would want me to. Instead, I occasionally drop the service for a month because I've come to realize that Apple Arcade isn't, and likely will never be, a one size fits all service no matter how hard it tries.

Lot of outstanding games

Let's start with some good news, and arguably, the most important topic: the games!

With the launch of Alba: A Wildlife Adventure today, the Apple Arcade library now consists of 146 titles. Every one of those titles is free of ads, has absolutely no micro-transactions, and is available for five dollars a month. There are at least six other titles that have been announced (with no specific released date), which means you're looking at 152 games that will be in the library. No matter how you slice it, you get a lot of value for that monthly $5 payment.

Apple Arcade on iPhone XS Max

Apple Arcade on iPhone XS Max (Image credit: iMore)

It's not just the amount of games; it's also the quality. Every game I have played on Apple Arcade has been a good game. That doesn't mean I have been in love with every title, but it does mean that the design is well done, and there have been no major hiccups or glitches. The games are clearly made with care, and since they spread across all different genres, everyone will be able to find dozens of games that they will absolutely love.

When it comes to the Apple Arcade game library, I will give the service a glowing recommendation both in quantity and quality. If you want a cheap way to try new games you can't go wrong with giving Apple Arcade a try on your iPhone, iPad, Mac, or even Apple TV.

Apple Arcade is meant for all Apple hardware — except when it's not

Apple Arcade hasn't fully fixed its hardware problem since launch. The service is billed as a way to play all the same great games across all your Apple devices. Play some Rayman Mini on your iPhone, some Where Cards Fall on your Mac, and then maybe finish the day off with Beyond a Steel Sky on the Apple TV — sounds good, right? The problem is it doesn't always work out that way.

iPad Air 4 with DualShock Controller playing Butter Royale in Apple Arcade

iPad Air 4 with DualShock Controller playing Butter Royale in Apple Arcade (Image credit: iMore)

While many the games are compatible across all the Apple devices, not all games are, and even some of the games don't run very well on other hardware. This is especially noticeable on the older hardware of the Apple TV, which desperately needs an update if Apple wants to make it a viable place for people to enjoy Apple Arcade. Not only is the Apple TV Apple Arcade library a bit more limited, but it also has a hard time running certain games. Remember, the Apple TV internals haven't been updated since 2017. Heck, even my 2019 MacBook Air has issues running some of the games, which does lower the appeal of Apple Arcade a little bit for me.

One can now argue that Apple Arcade is really meant to be a mobile gaming service meant for a mobile gaming platform, which means the iPhone and iPad. Sure, if you have an iPhone and iPad that are brand new or only a couple of years old, all the games will run really well, but it still sucks when a game you really like is available on the Apple TV, and the dated hardware makes impossible to enjoy. Or worse yet, Apple Aracade doesn't have the game you're looking for on the device you want to play it on.

One great thing about the hardware aspect of Apple Arcade is that so many of the games work with controllers. Since Apple has made popular controllers like the PlayStation DualShock 4 and the Xbox One Wireless Controller compatible with their devices, it's so easy to pair one to your iPhone, Mac, or iPad and start shooting. While not all the games are compatible with the best game controllers, many titles on Apple Arcade are made so much better by being able to have a controller in your hand.

Why I haven't paid every single month

I mentioned before that I had gone a few months without my Apple Arcade subscription active, and while it's very much a personal choice, I think switching it on and off might make sense for a lot of people. In the last 15 or so months the service has been live, I have chose not to carry my Apple Arcade subscription for about four of them.

While $5 a month may seem like such a small amount, a service is only worth paying for if you use it. Likely, Apple Arcade will not meet all of your gaming needs. I have a Nintendo Switch and a PS4 that typically log a lot of hours on playing some of my favorite games — games that you clearly are never going to see come to Apple Arcade — and sometimes that meant I would go a whole month without playing Apple Arcade even once. I only have so much time in a day for gaming, and while sometimes I love getting wrapped up in a new or exciting mobile game on Apple Arcade, I still do a lot of gaming via other platforms.

Apple One on iPhone (Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

On top of other gaming platforms stealing my attention, there are still premium games on the App Store, separate from Apple Arcade, that grab my attention as well. All in all, this caused me to have a conversation with myself every month about whether Apple Arcade was worth it to me for the next 30 days. Did a new title on the Switch just launch? I probably would rather spend my time playing that this month.

What's cool about a subscription service like Apple Arcade is you do have the flexibility do take a break whenever you want. Even if you're in the middle of a game, the minute you start up your subscription again, you can just pick up where you left off.

There are a couple of other caveats to keep in mind too, though. With 2020 being as crazy and wild as it has been, it does mean that I have been spending more time at home and less time outside and commuting, where I would more often gravitate towards mobile gaming. Also, I'm very budget-consious, and I try to think about every single dollar that leaves my pocket. So saving $5 a month here and there is important to me. Plus, now that I have the indivdual bundle of Apple One, I dont think I'll be having this issue anymore. The bundle of services offers me enough goodies, that even if I don't use Apple Arcade much for a month or two, I'm still using everything else, and that's more than worth it.

I always go back to Apple Arcade

Apple Arcade Possessions Hero

Apple Arcade Possessions Hero (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

Even if I took a few months off from the service, I always come back to Apple Arcade eventually because the games are just outstanding. I would often find myself trying out someting new from the extensive library and falling in love with it for weeks at a time.

Apple Arcade follows through on delivering a fantatsic service, and even though there are a couple of minor hardware issues, it delivers what it promises overall. Hundreds of games on your Apple devices with no annoying ads or microtransactions all for a great price. If that sounds like what you want, I assure you, you won't be dissapointed.

Luke Filipowicz
Staff Writer

Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way. 

Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.