Are Apple Arcade exclusives actually hurting the service? They just might be.

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

Apple's premium game subscription, Apple Arcade, is coming up on two years of being active. The service now boasts over 200 games, and they keep adding more every few weeks on average. If you're a mobile gamer, its $5 subscription cost is well worth it, in my opinion, especially since you cancel it whenever you want. It is slightly better when you have a great gaming controller for Apple Arcade, but it's not imperative to enjoy the games. The service has seemingly had a little trouble catching on, and Apple Arcade exclusives could be a reason.

Exclusives are great for Microsft and Sony, but not necessarily for Apple

Best Mystery Games on Apple Arcade (Image credit: Joseph Keller / iMore)

When you're a giant gaming company like Sony or Microsoft, competing for exclusives makes sense. When Microsoft announced that Bethesda's newest IP, Starfield, will be an Xbox exclusive for the console, it undoubtedly will make people hesitate to decide between Xbox or PlayStation. Apple doesn't have a direct competition that's comparable.

Apple Arcade isn't really competing with another service, but rather is competing for your time and money against a variety of sources — especially ones that carry smaller and indie games more often. The Nintendo Switch and Steam are huge in the indie game market and tons of Apple Arcade games are available on those services. But, some of the best games are (or were) Apple Arcade exclusives. This can cause the average Joe, who may not be as informed with everything Apple Arcade offers, to have trouble finding these great games. However, sometimes an Apple Arcade game breakthroughs to the mainstream, and the service definitely feels that effect.

The Mini Motorways effect

Mini Motorways is by far one of the best games on Apple Arcade, and recently some big streamers have been streaming the game. People like PewDiePie and Seagull have both streamed themselves to get their highest scores in the game in the last week. This caused Mini Motorways, an Apple Arcade title that debuted when the serviced launched, to become the number one download on Apple Arcade quickly.

Obviously, that's great news for Apple Arcade, but that success will not only be short-lived (streamers typically move on quickly from smaller indie games), but it also wasn't really anything Apple did that caused the bump.

Mini Motorways was an Apple Arcade exclusive until about two weeks ago when the game hit Steam. It's not like the streamers were playing Mini Motorways on Apple Arcade. While other Apple Arcade games exist on Steam and other systems, there are still some incredible games that aren't. Now, I'm sure some of those games were never intended to hit Steam, but I'd be willing to bet that some of them are time exclusives like Mini Motorways appeared to be, and maybe that's not the best play for Apple Arcade.

Apple Arcade suffers a marketing problem

Apple Arcade game on iPad Air (Image credit: iMore)

I love Apple Arcade, and I'm glad to see Apple still supporting it so strongly a couple of years after its launch. Still, I think it's running an uphill battle in the marketing department, and when you have exclusives games to such a small platform, that hinders getting the word out on great games. Especially since we know that streamers, YouTubers, and other gaming personalities are so instrumental in some games finding success. The explosion of Among Us last year proved that theory, hands down.

Now, while it would ultimately be awesome to see streamers starting to stream Apple Arcade, I think a much more realistic approach is for Apple to loosen its grip on its exclusives so streamers and other people can actually find it their games. With iPhones in so many more hands than your typical gaming computer, the potential to grab new users when a game gains traction is much greater with those that aren't exclusive.

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.