Apple doesn't care about games, longtime Apple Arcade developers say

Apple Arcade

Game developers are expressing frustration with Apple Arcade as payouts plummet and projects are shut down by Apple management.

As an all-you-can-eat model, Apple Arcade offers developers the ability to create games without relying on players to open their wallets. However, in the years since its introduction, developers have begun to worry about it, with one describing Apple Arcade as “the smell of death.”

MobileGamer.Biz's developer sources said that initial upfront payments from Apple were generous at launch and that most games released in the early years were profitable from day one. Many developers have responded positively to the service, making premium game development for mobile devices more viable.

Over time, cracks began to appear in the relationship between developers and Apple itself. In October 2020, bonus pool payments for the game began to decline, followed by the cancellation of several projects in the spring of 2021.

The end of many projects upset “a lot of people,” one source said, but it signaled a shift in the service's strategy toward family-friendly games with a core IP attached to it.

Problems with messages and payment

In one case, the studio had months received rave reviews from Apple for the game, but then the Apple Arcade team withdrew interest without warning due to a change in strategy. The team also reportedly refused to respond to emails from the studio suggesting budget changes and retooling of the game.

Messaging issues were also an issue for other developers, including where Arcade was actually headed in the future. “I feel like they didn't know where they were going at all, almost like they weren't sure if they'd get the job in the end,” a studio executive admitted.

Upfront payments for new Apple Arcade games have also dropped further, as have “bonus pool” payouts. “We're going to see that amount go down and down and down until it's just pennies,” the developer insisted, with further cuts making it less viable to make the game for Apple Arcade.

Developers also don't understand why payments are being reduced since Apple avoids explaining how payments are calculated.

The “qualifying session” is used as the basis for bonus pool payouts, but the developers don't actually know what a qualifying session is. “It has something to do with whether the game was launched, how long the player played it and how often they come back, but it's really a black box,” the source explained.

App Store games released on Apple Arcade in the App Store Great Games category do not receive an upfront payment, but are paid out of a bonus pool. This will indeed benefit games with longer shelf life, but shorter narrative games and premium indie games won't have much of a chance with this release.

Marketing problems

Developers also find it difficult to get significant marketing help from Apple when they are included in Apple arcade. “We're basically having to ask Apple for representation” in the Arcade tab, one developer said.

“Putting that banner up there is like squeezing blood out of a stone.”

The source also said that convincing Apple to help with marketing is difficult and time-consuming. “As with everything Apple, it takes six weeks to get one tweet or anything.”

Another reboot?

While 2021 has already seen one reboot, developers believe Apple Arcade could to undergo another one, thanks to some competition from Netflix.

Netflix's gaming service also offers generous upfront payments, but not ongoing bonus payments. Although they are willing to spend huge amounts of money now, there are concerns that similar depletion of funds could happen in the future.

However, the developers claim that Netflix is ​​obviously much easier to work with compared to Apple.

“I really hope Netflix continues to do what it is doing because it requires Apple to continue to remain relevant and competitive,” the source hopes.

The lack of progress is also believed to be due to Apple management, the studio chief said, believing there is a lack of passion for gaming at the executive level.

“It all depends on how much support these guys at the top get, and I don't think they really value Arcade or invest in it the same way you see them invest in music or TV.” , they suggested.

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