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Apple Arcade in review

Posted by Campbell Bird on October 18th, 2019

This weekend, Apple Arcade will officially be one month old. That means anyone who signed up for the free trial on day one has a decision to make: Stick with the service and shell out $5 a month, or cancel and go about your merry way.

As someone who dove head first into Apple Arcade by playing 35 games since launch (and counting. See their rankings here), I’ve come away ambivalent about the service in its first month. While it is really nice to have a huge, curated list of premium games from a lot of well-known developers, there’s a lot about the service that could be improved. To illustrate this, check out some of my notes I kept while thoroughly testing the service:

Apple Arcade: Ranked [Updated 10.15]

Posted by Campbell Bird on October 15th, 2019

In case you missed it, I am on a quest to rank every Apple Arcade game there is.

Patch Notes:

October 15:
Added: Mutazione, Dear Reader, Cat Quest II, Neo Cab, King’s League II, Pilgrims, Outlanders, Down in Bermuda, Fledgling Heroes, and Big Time Sports

Rank Changes: What the Golf? (3 to 5), Exit the Gungeon (4 to 6), Jenny LeClue (5 to 7), Sayonara Wild Hearts (6 to 8), Over the Alps (7 to 9), Bleak Sword (8 to 13), Spaceland (9 to 14), Super Impossible Road (10 to 15), Dread Nautical (11 to 16), Dead End Job (12 to 19), Cricket Through the Ages (13 to 20), Grindstone (14 to 21), Hyperbrawl Tournament (15 to 22), Assemble With Care (16 to 23), Sneaky Sasquatch (17 to 25), ChuChu Rocket! Universe (18 to 26), Oceanhorn 2 (19 to 28), Pinball Wizard (20 to 29), Lego Brawls (21 to 31), Sonic Racing (22 to 32), Hot Lava (23 to 33), The Get Out Kids (24 to 34), Where Cards Fall (25 to 12)

October 8:
Super Impossible Road, Cricket Through the Ages, Hyperbrawl Tournament, ChuChu Rocket! Universe, and Lego Brawls

Rank Changes:Dread Nautical (10 to 11), Dead End Job (11 to 12), Grindstone (12 to 14), Assemble With Care (13 to 16), Sneaky Sasquatch (14 to 17), Oceanhorn 2 (15 to 19), Pinball Wizard (16 to 20), Sonic Racing (17 to 22), Hot Lava (18 to 23), The Get Out Kids (19 to 24), Where Cards Fall (20 to 25)

October 4:
Added: Oceanhorn 2, Exit the Gungeon, Over the Alps, Jenny LeClue - Detectivu, and Pinball Wizard

Rank Changes: Sayonara Wild Hearts (4 to 6), Bleak Sword (5 to 8), Spaceland (6 to 9), Dread Nautical (7 to 10), Dead End Job (8 to 11), Grindstone (9 to 12), Assemble With Care (10 to 13), Sneaky Sasquatch (11 to 14), Sonic Racing (12 to 17), Hot Lava (13 to 18), The Get Out Kids (14 to 19), Where Cards Fall (15 to 20)

September 30:
Added: Dead End Job, Dread Nautical, Assemble With Care, The Get Out Kids, and Spaceland

Rank Changes: Grindstone (6 to 9), What the Golf? (5 to 3), Sayonara Wild Hearts (3 to 4), Bleak Sword (4 to 5), Sneaky Sasquatch (7 to 11), Sonic Racing (8 to 12), Hot Lava (9 to 13), and Where Cards Fall (10 to 15).

September 26:
Added: What the Golf, Sneaky Sasquatch, Sonic Racing, Hot Lava, and Where Cards Fall

Rank Changes: Grindstone (5 to 6)

September 23: First launch of list with titles Card of Darkness, Overland, Sayonara Wild Hearts, Bleak Sword, and Grindstone.

Games marked with an asterisk(*) are games that suffer in rank due to technical problems.

All current rankings are listed below. More titles will be added frequently until the list is complete.

Playond isn't a scam, it just has some problems to work on

Posted by Campbell Bird on September 25th, 2019

Last week, I wrote about Playond, a service by Bending Spoons that has been acquiring the mobile publishing rights to premium games and re-releasing them behind a subscription paywall. Since writing the piece, I received quite a few replies about the service, and most of it was negative.

The complaints mostly centered around how certain games didn’t actually verify old purchases properly and would also reset player progress. This definitely makes Bending Spoons seem like a shady player, and so it’s no wonder I started seeing chatter from players wondering why trusted developers would get into bed with such an operation.

Instead of just looking at anecdotal evidence, I decided to follow up on this. Is Playond really that bad? Are developers being tricked? Do said developers actually care about mobile anymore? I started trying to find these answers by reaching out to developers who agreed to be part of the service, and here’s what they said:

I am going to rank every game on Apple Arcade

Posted by Campbell Bird on September 23rd, 2019

Apple Arcade is here, and I’ve been thinking about how best to cover its debut. Writing reviews for each game seems unnecessary, and a lot of the takes on whether the service is worth the money seem a little premature. So, I got to thinking and came up with a really dumb idea: I am going to rank every game on Apple Arcade.

Why? I wouldn’t worry yourself about that too much. Just think of this as the definitive list of which games for the service are best and why.

Here’s how this will go: I’m going to work my way through every Apple Arcade game a handful of games at a time. I’ll analyze each one based on a set of loose criteria and then use that to decide where they fit among their peers. Each game will get a small blurb explaining what the game is, its rank, and additional info about rank changes as necessary.

By the end of this journey, every game on the service will have some handy info that you can use to do all kinds of things, like:

    1. Find the best games to play. And all without dealing with Arcade’s poor organization and layout.
    2. Learn whether the service is right for you. If the top games all seem lame, maybe don't pay for it.
    3. Know which games to avoid. Just because you can play something doesn’t mean you should. Avoid the stinkers.

So, there it is. I’ve said I’m going to do this, so I better go and start doing it. View the list here.

Lots of premium games are going free (sort of). Here's why

Posted by Campbell Bird on September 18th, 2019
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

You may have seen over the past couple weeks a that a bunch of premium games have suddenly become free. This isn’t a mistake, nor is it some last hurrah before Apple Arcade hits, and it’s important to know that these games aren’t actually becoming free.

What’s happening here is there is a developer called Bending Spoons Apps that is buying up premium games to put them on a service called Playond. Playond seems to be a competitor to Apple Arcade in the sense that it’s taking premium titles, like Fowlst, Crashlands, and MUL.MASH.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL, and putting them behind a $9.99/month paywall. In the course of this transition, the games themselves get updated to be listed as free, but—just like Netflix—you need to log into a subscription account in order to actually play them.

Apple Arcade's future depends on how Apple answers a few key questions

Posted by Campbell Bird on March 26th, 2019

Apple made a lot of waves from its special event this week. The announcement of Apple Arcade in particular, a subscription service that will deliver access to over 100 premium games starting this fall, sounds like a potential new step forward for gaming on mobile.

As great as this might sound though, there are lots of things Apple didn’t talk about as it relates to this new service. A lot of what Apple said yesterday may sound exciting, but I have my doubts about the service given what wasn’t covered in their presentation. There’s just too many unknowns, and—given Apple’s track record on games—I’m not sure Apple Arcade will seem all that great when we get the answers.

See below for some of the biggest mysteries looming over the announcement and my thoughts on why their absence has me worried about this service.