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Can Apple Arcade re-create the magic of iOS gaming on the Mac?

Love iOS games? Apple Arcade could bring that magic to the Mac

What’s the world’s biggest gaming platform? Steam? Guess again. The PlayStation? Not even close. It’s mobile gaming — or more specifically, iPhone and Android gaming.

Sony’s PlayStation Network may claim a hefty 94 million monthly users, but that’s dwarfed by just a single iOS game: Candy Crush Saga’s incredible 280 million downloads.

The millions upon millions of mobile gamers might not identify as gamers, but if you’re Apple, those are people you want gaming on the Mac too. Given the struggles Apple has had to liven up the Mac App Store, it’s easier said than done. Is Apple Arcade the service that can make the magic happen?

Revolutionizing Mac gaming

If you play games on a Mac, you don’t exactly have it easy. Games often come to Mac many years after their Windows counterparts (if they arrive at all), meaning the range of games available to Mac gamers is limited and largely out of date.

That’s compounded by the fact that most Macs ship with underpowered integrated graphics. If you want a discrete graphics card, you have to opt for the much more expensive options in Apple’s lineup or buy a costly external graphics card (eGPU).

Apple Arcade, the company’s recently announced game subscription service, could be the answer to Mac gamers’ prayers. Apple has promised that all of its 100+ games will be available on iOS, Apple TV and, crucially, the Mac. And you know that if Apple is curating this library, not only will the games be a joy to play but they will run superbly well on Macs.

Furthermore, Intel’s Ice Lake processor series is slated to hit laptops by the end of 2019, which bring with it more powerful Iris Plus integrated graphics. There’s been no announcement yet, but it’s reasonable to assume that upcoming MacBooks (perhaps even the highly-rumored 16-inch MacBook Pro) could use these chips. With the extra graphical firepower at their disposal, Apple Arcade’s fall 2019 launch could come at the perfect time for Mac gamers.

The huge influx of games that Apple Arcade will bring could be the biggest boost Mac gaming has ever received. For the first time, players will have an extensive catalog of timely, enjoyable releases from well-known developers. No more waiting years for games to finally transition over from Windows, no more poorly ported efforts with sub-par performance. Just great game after great game tailor-made for the Mac.

In other words: This could be the Mac’s App Store moment, when the platform’s potential is finally realized thanks to a well-made distribution platform.

The Mac arcade

Introducing Apple Arcade — Coming Fall 2019

Let’s be clear: Apple Arcade is not pitched at the typical PC gamer. There’ll be no Call of Duty, no hyper-competitive, explosive-laden shoot-em-up shenanigans. It’s as if Apple has taken the prevailing image of what it means to be a gamer and run in the opposite direction.

A brief look at Apple’s teaser page for Apple Arcade suggests something very different. It promises “groundbreaking” games “where storytelling and design are pushed further than ever before.” Many of the games, from Lego Brawls to Hot Lava, emphasize collaborative play. There are puzzles, coming of age tales, and beautifully crafted worlds, with nary a twitch shooter in sight.

If you’ve played the superb Sky: Children of the Light, you won’t be in the least surprised by this. Sky was chosen by Apple to be showcased at the iPhone X launch in 2017, and it’s a game that places a heavy emphasis on collaborative play and generally being nice to one another. The game was developed by thatgamecompany, known for indie hits such as Journey and Flower, and it perfectly aligns with Apple’s stated values to “leave the world better than we found it.”

All of this tells us Apple is aiming Apple Arcade at the same “non-gamer” gamers who have made iOS such a successful gaming platform. That idea was recently bolstered by a discovery from reliable Apple sleuth Guilherme Rambo, who uncovered evidence that Apple would price the service at $4.99 a month.

That $4.99 price came as something of a surprise (albeit a welcome one), given previous rumors had pegged Apple Arcade’s monthly cost at around double that, in line with services like Apple Music and Spotify. But charging a much lower price will do wonders to bring in iOS gamers who are accustomed to paying far less for their apps than their Mac-toting brethren. It sounds mighty attractive to pay $4.99 a month to access over 100 cross-platform games from renowned developers, with no ads, no in-app purchases, and no limits on game time. It’s further evidence that Apple is courting a much more casual games market with Apple Arcade — and right now, that feels like the right move for the Mac.

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