I don’t play many games on mobile because I’m an old fashioned person who prefers discrete, complete, single-player experiences with a focus on style, feel and/or narrative, and while those definitely exist on iPhone and Android I find I’m better served by consoles. In particular, the Nintendo Switch has been a godsend in making those kinds of games available in full fidelity on the go.
That’s the space Apple is about to jump into on September 20, promising a curated library of games that work offline, feature no ads or monetisation and come from some of the biggest and most interesting studios and developers around.
Some of the games showed off at this week’s event that jumped out at me immediately include:
- ChuChu Rocket! Universe, a sequel to the wonderfully bizarre cat-and-mouse puzzler that just happens to be my favourite Sega Dreamcast game.
- Exit the Gungeon, sequel to Enter the Gungeon, which appears to make good on the inspired title by having you escape crumbling underground structures.
- Overland, a turn-based post-apocalyptic survival road trip that looks both beautiful and darkly humorous.
- Shantae and the Seven Sirens, the latest chapter in the irresistibly goofy platforming series that follows a transforming half-genie hero.
- Various Daylife, a new game from the masters of role-playing games (and creative adverbs) behind Bravely Default and Octopath Traveller.
Other promising titles shown previously include Hot Lava, Oceanhorn 2, Sayonara Wild Hearts, Sonic Racing and The Pathless.
Even though a lot of these games will end up on Switch as well (but not the Android or iOS stores or any other subscription service, Apple says), they’ll all be going for more than $8 so subscribers only need to play one a month on Arcade to be saving money. Plus they might be coaxed into more traditionally mobile-looking games, like Rayman Mini or Sneaky Sasquatch, if they’re included in a subscription they’re already paying for.
The big issue here is one of control; Switch has buttons, iPhone does not. Some of the games will doubtless be made with touchscreens in mind, but that’s not how I would want to play Shantae or other more traditional titles.
It remains to be seen if Apple will produce its own solution for this, but for now your options are to get a mount and attach an iPhone to a Bluetooth controller you already own — like the Dualshock 4, Xbox One controller or a retro pad like those made by 8bitdo — or invest in a phone-specific gadget like the Gamevice.
A single subscription entitles you and five family members to games on mobile, Mac and Apple TV, so playing in the loungeroom with a gamepad and a big screen should be possible too.
Serious gamers that want to play both at home and on the train have been having a great time the last few years thanks to Nintendo’s hybrid device, but those of them who own Apple gear are likely to be quite tempted by Arcade.
At the very least it could be just the thing to hold them over until game streaming services like Microsoft’s xCloud or Google’s Stadia become viable over mobile networks.
Tim is the editor of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald technology sections.