Around five years ago, it seemed that the hot new things in gaming were virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). This led developers to produce a rush of titles for these, from role-playing games to online casino ones, but now some of the attention that was focused on VR and AR has moved elsewhere. The emergence of Apple Arcade and Google Stadia means that subscription gaming is now seen as the future.
What are they?
Apple Arcade and Google Stadia are exclusive games subscription services that many feel will change the way people play games in the future. Buying a subscription to Apple Arcade lets gamers get access to high grade games created for iPads, iPhones and Macs that are only available to subscribers, while Google Stadia enables those who sign up to stream its games onto any screen in any location via the cloud. Of course, these are not the first examples of subscription gaming, as Microsoft introduced the Games Pass service two years ago that included titles like Sea of Thieves, but the difference was that subscribers could still buy physical copies of the games. By contrast the titles found on Google Stadia and Apple Arcade will only be available on these platforms. This has led many to describe them as the gaming equivalent of services like Netflix and to speculate that they will replace physical copies of games the way those services have replaced DVDs.
The chances of that happening
There are clear differences between the two, as Google Stadia is about cloud streaming, whereas with Arcade you download the games onto your Apple device. Some are arguing that this makes Apple Arcade more likely to appeal to gamers, because streaming presents issues. For one thing, it requires a good internet connection which isn’t available everywhere. One of the selling points of Google Stadia is the freedom to play games anywhere and on any device, but if the connection is poor that could be undermined. Apple Arcade has the benefits of freeing gamers from the low-quality games riddled with adverts on the App Store and encouraging developers to produce high quality games for potentially higher rewards that will be exclusive to Apple. It will still face the issue of convincing gamers that they do not need physical copies of the games they love, but this will probably happen gradually as it has been with CDs and DVDs. Ben Decker, from Microsoft, told Gameindustry.biz that the experience of Games Pass had shown them that serious gamers want subscriptions to a smaller number of very good titles rather than a service with thousands of games of varying quality.
This suggests the two new services may appeal to different audiences, with Apple Arcade capturing dedicated gamers prepared to pay for the very best exclusive games while Stadia sets low subscription rates and grabs casual players who don’t mind some streaming glitches and mixed quality games.
Juana loves to cover the tech and gaming industry, she always stays on the first row of CES conference and reports live from there.