Smartphone gaming is a colossal business. It isn’t just limited to the excitement around certain game title releases. Data testifies as much to a much wider uptake. Globally, there are expected to be as many as 2,323.9 million mobile gamers, globally, by 2027, according to research firm Statista. Another research firm, GlobalData, estimates that by 2030, mobile gaming will contribute half of the revenues of what’ll be a $470 billion gaming industry.
While mobile gaming is incredibly popular, something that’s very clear by the game titles that are available on Android and iOS, there is still a sense of a scattered ecosystem. Unlike the console space where Microsoft and Sony have invested extraordinary efforts onto the Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Plus gaming subscription services, only Apple is genuinely attempting something similar in the mobile gaming space.
There is inevitability about every game release and indeed every new phone launch. We are promised an elevated smartphone gaming experience, than the predecessor ever could. But have you fully utilised the capabilities of your phone or tablet, apart from one or two games which you progressed further than initially expected? And have you gone beyond that one screen for a multi-device gaming experience?
Apple Arcade has been a great advertisement for cross-platform play. It works on the iPhone, iPad, all Macs and even the Apple TV media players. Google has something similar, in theory, with the Play Pass. For all the width of Android’s app ecosystem, Play Pass doesn’t have the sort of high-profile gaming title gravitas that Arcade has instead. Arcade just has more high-profile games, in comparison. Some even being Arcade exclusives, across smartphone platforms.
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If you still haven’t signed up for Apple Arcade, and there is the most casual of casual gamers hidden somewhere inside you, it is perhaps time you should. The more we think of all-we-can-game buffet subscriptions, it is the likes of Microsoft’s admittedly excellent Xbox Game Pass and Sony’s now reconfigured PlayStation Plus that come to mind.
It shouldn’t be that restrictive, with either requiring you to have a gaming console or in the case of the Xbox Game Pass, a full-fledged gaming PC, to have any utility.
We’ve experienced this to an extent with the Microsoft Xbox Game Pass across Windows 11 PCs (and to a large extent on Windows 10 before that) and the Xbox gaming console. But when it is all about true cross-platform gaming, most don’t really get close to the Apple Arcade. Pretty much every device in the Apple hardware ecosystem plugs in – iPhone, iPad, all Macs and even the Apple TV (this is crucial for gaming on TV). And if you have one of the recent iPod Touch lying around, that’ll join the party too.
The idea is simple. Games that are included in the Arcade catalogue, will work on all Apple hardware. The condition being, they need a game controller if you wish to play with your Apple TV. As far as controllers go, any Microsoft Xbox controller (from the Series X/S or the One series) or a Sony PlayStation controller (works with PS5 and PS4 ones) are compatible. We tested this with a PlayStation 4 controller.
Two of the most recent games we’ve tested with Arcade, Football Manager 2023 Touch and Gear.Club Stradale, have simply flowed across the iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV. Not all games may be ideal everywhere – for instance, Gear.Club Stradale is brilliant on the Apple TV too (with the controller; that’ll be key to the experience), but we prefer the iPad for Football Manager 2023 Touch. It’s all subjective.
Some games will fall between these extremes – Pac Man Party Royale, Gris+ and Stitch being some examples. Fun fact, two of these games are very recent additions to Arcade, on day one of release.
The numbers tell their own tale, and potentially do more to illustrate the scope of mobile gaming. Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass, according to latest official numbers, has crossed 25 million subscribers. Sony’s PlayStation Plus lost about 2 million subscribers in the quarter ending September, and now has around 45.4 million subscribers.
Apple doesn’t give Arcade specific numbers – it is part of the larger “Services” umbrella, which also includes Apple Music and Apple TV+. That’s growing, quarterly and annually. Investment bankers JP Morgan have estimated that Apple Music and Apple Arcade are likely to have a combined subscriber base of about 180 million by 2025. Of this, close to 110 million users will be for Apple Music, and 70 million for Arcade.
Apple just doesn’t have serious rivals for Arcade. Microsoft’s cloud gaming, called Xbox Cloud Gaming, clocked 20 million users at the end of the September quarter. This also works on iPhones and Android phones, as well as Windows laptops. The challenge is, it still isn’t available in all countries, including India.
Netflix, the most popular streaming platform globally, has spent the last year carefully ramping up its gaming efforts. Still not big enough to be considered worth spinning off into a separate app (games reside within the Netflix app on Android and iPhone. Netflix plans to expand the library to about 50 titles by the end of the year.
The uptake has been slow. Analytics firm Apptopia indicates Netflix’s games have been downloaded about 23 million times and that translates into an average daily audience of about 1.7 million users. This pales into insignificance, when inevitably weighed against Netflix’s 221 million or so subscribers globally, for its core streaming service.
It started out with about 100 games a couple of years ago, and the library of the buffer is now more than 200 titles. The advantage, a single subscription (its ₹99 per month standalone; bundles with Apple One also are an option) gives you a plethora of games. And no in-app purchases needed. No requirement to pay separately for downloading games.
That’s one way of sidestepping the freemium model, which is increasingly common (and equally irritating), in games. Secondly, you won’t end up with a surprisingly large credit card bill at the end of the month. Lastly, there are no in-game advertisements. All these advantages should work for the younger gaming audience too. Particularly the insulation from dodgy advertising.