As ably documented by Michael Tsai, Apple Arcade’s future is looking rocky. This comes from reports Apple’s rowing back on new content and paying less to developers.

Honestly, I always thought Apple Arcade was a strange move for Apple, given that it’s never seemed there was anyone sufficiently senior at the company who genuinely cares about gaming. Music and typography are infused in Apple’s DNA. Gaming is too often presented as something cool to show off the power of new devices, or comes across from Apple execs as a weird thing people waste time on. No new M-series chip or gaming toolkits will get us past that.

However, specifically on Apple Arcade, while I thought it was a weird decision, I’m nonetheless glad it exists. Because it’s objectively good. Sure, people who claim the only ‘real games’ are AAA (and who even attempt to dismiss the Switch, let alone mobiles) won’t give it a chance. But there are loads of fun titles, even if much of the service’s strength now lies in ‘+’ fare (existing App Store releases minus ads/IAP) rather than exclusives. It’s superb for kids who like mobile games (again: no ads; no IAP). And there are still interesting new things to play. (I mean, Arcade added a pinball game at one point. And pinball is pretty niche!)

For me, the main error Apple Arcade made was during its launch. It offered too much, too soon. It was simultaneously overwhelming and somehow yet made people think they could blaze through everything and instantly demand more. And more didn’t come for a long while, and so users felt they weren’t getting good value, even though Arcade at the time cost only five bucks per month.

Retention then became the driver, as subscribers dried up, extinguishing much of the original direction of the service (quality; games as art; experiments; uniqueness) for friendlier and grindy fare that is too often akin to freemium with the IAP ripped out. It’s hard to see where things go now. Maybe the future of Apple Arcade will be mostly + games, thereby turning it into Apple’s equivalent of Google Play Pass, rather than a place to exhibit the pinnacle of mobile games.

Perhaps I’m being unfair, but Apple Arcade feels like the same old story with Apple and gaming: what success occurs is in many ways despite rather than because of Apple’s decisions and direction. I do hope things improve. I won’t hold my breath. Had I been doing so with Apple and gaming, I’d have expired within a year of getting my first Mac, way back in the 1990s.