It's no secret that Apple Arcade hasn't exactly lived up to its potential. The initial promise of Apple providing a subscription service for less engagement-focused, high quality titles was only partially realized at its launch, and since then has been officially tossed aside in favor of pursuing the exact opposite.
As Arcade has been languishing, some other subscription services have been trying to establish their own foothold on the App Store, and perhaps the most attention-grabbing of these services has been Netflix. With any level of Netflix's streaming tiers, users also gain access to a mobile game library that so far includes breakout surprise hit Poinpy and modern classic Into the Breach.
Between Netflix's recent moves in securing hot titles for its service and Apple announcing recently that certain titles on Arcade are disappearing, I figured it was high time to compare the services directly as a handy way for you to decide which--if any--mobile game subscription service might be worth subscribing to.
More vs. better?
First let's take a look at the game lineup of both services. Arcade boasts a gigantic library of over 250 titles that's an order of magnitude higher than the couple dozen entries in Netflix's catalog. It's hard to argue the numbers. Heck, it's even hard to argue quality. Arcade has a ton of shovelware, but I'd say about 15% of that lineup is actually pretty great. That might sound small, but it equals out to almost 40 titles, which is almost twice as big as everything Netflix has to offer so far.
That said, one of the problems with Arcade is that it can be hard to find the good stuff. It's part of the reason why I set out to rank every game on the service. It's also mysterious in that very little information is ever shared about what is coming to the service, and recently Apple has quietly suggested that it will be removing games without really articulating what that actually means.
Netflix has some similar issues to Apple in that it already has some hypercasual fluff that's virtually indistinguishable from the games you can find for free or pay once for on the App Store. That said, it really seems like the service is intent on securing some big names to bring exciting titles to their lineup as they grow. The most recent example of this is Into the Breach, which is far-and-away the best game on either service.
The upshot here is that although Netflix has fewer games (and fewer worth playing), there still seems to be an eye for quality being applied to the service that I'm not sure Arcade has really shown (outside of acquiring previously acclaimed App Store titles for their service) in almost a year. The last truly great original title was Fantasian, which released back in April of 2021.
The services beyond the games
Both Apple Arcade and Netflix offer users things outside of access to their software catalogs. Apple offers Arcade as part of an Apple One subscription, which grants users access to Apple Music, Apple tv+, and iCloud on top of Arcade with an additional option to pay into a Premier tier that throws in Apple News+ and Fitness+. Even without a bundled subscription, though, Apple does guarantee that all Arcade titles will have things like iCloud sync so you never lose your saves between devices or after deleting apps, and controller support so you can turn your phone or tablet into a dedicated gaming device.
Netflix, on the other hand, only offers its game catalog as an add-on to streaming subscribers. This might sound nice if you already have or have been interested in signing up for Netflix, but since it is a third-party subscription service, the user experience for playing games is not quite as polished. Netflix is inconsistent about which games offer cross-saving or controller support, and none of their games to my knowledge will preserve your saves after deleting them from a device. Also, booting Netflix games can be a little painful as you have to log in with a Netflix account and choose the profile you're playing with for each game when you download and open it for the first time.
Compared to what?
Based on all of this, if you asked me which subscription mobile game service I'd recommend right now I'd say neither. Apple Arcade is too bloated and seemingly headed in a direction that aims to just make a paid tier for App Store hits. Netflix's catalog is too small to really make it worth going out of your way to pay for it. Neither of these options feel meaningfully better than the normal App Store experience, where you can find a large number of great games, even though you have to sift through a lot of garbage to find them.
If you forced me to choose between these two services, I would lean toward Netflix. It seems like a platform that is fighting to be competitive, and it's attached to a service I already enjoy and pay for. Also, Into the Breach is basically a perfect game. I can do without perfect save syncing or controller support if the games that are available continue to be incredible ports of games that otherwise wouldn't make it to mobile or ones that can offer me something I can't find somewhere else. There just need to be more of them before the service actually becomes recommendable.
I can't really see myself being excited about Apple Arcade at all these days. It is simply a disappointing service that continues to stumble into new ways to make it worse. The only way I could see someone opting into Arcade as a good decision is if they truly saw and got value out of the suite of services provided by an Apple One subscription. Paying for a the standalone price for service that is currently in the process of removing old games and filling their library with games you can already get on the App Store just doesn't feel great.