原作者：James Batchelor 译者：Vivian Xue
与Xbox Game Pass一样，Apple Arcade正力图证明订阅模式将重塑游戏行业，正如它转变了其它娱乐形式那样。然而，不同于Game Pass，移动平台服务凭借其设备的普及性，将触及更广大的用户群体。
Apple Arcade是今年9月才推出的新服务，但已经包含了100款游戏。最近在伦敦举办的一场活动上，一名苹果公司代表说他相信这在新平台发布中是史无前例的。Apple Arcade游戏的多样性不容小觑，此外，值得再次提及的是开发者们将通过iPhone（以及iPad、Mac和Apple TV）触及更广泛的群体。
庞大的潜在用户对于34bigthings这样的新兴工作室来说是极其宝贵的，这家意大利开发商的创始人Guiseppe Franchi说。该开发商推出的Arcade游戏Redout: Space Assault是一款科幻射击手游，为原作Redout的前传，Redout的粉丝主要是PC硬核玩家。有了触屏控制及设备对手柄的支持，34bigthings降低了Space Assault的上手难度，希望吸引更广大的玩家。
“这是一个非常另类大胆的游戏概念，因此Apple Arcade是该游戏的完美发行平台，”工作室成员Julia Angerer说。
Lifelike的官方制作者为苹果公司，意味着这家电子设备大厂至少是有资助这款游戏的开发。 尽管Kunabi Brother无法透露协议的具体内容——所有Arcade开发者均谢绝谈论这个方面——但他们说称该协议“确实激励了我们冒险制作这款游戏”。
例如，巴黎工作室Pastagames与Bandai Namco联手制作的Pac-Man Party就是一款Apple Arcade独占游戏。游戏设计师Nadim Haddad说它采用了 一种“100%不同的设计”。
Picomy工作室的艺术总监Jimmy De Meza肯定了这一点。他们工作室的Monomals是一款使用钓鱼产生的声效创作音乐的游戏，原计划作为免费游戏发行在Apple Watch上。后来游戏的开发范围和目标扩大，苹果买下这款游戏作为Arcade独占后，Picomy不需要在设计上做妥协了。
另一个疑问是，这些游戏是否会永远留在Arcade里。无论是Netflix还是Game Pass， 大部分订阅服务都会定期重组内容，用新内容替换旧内容。
他接着保证Apple Arcade将永远是一个注重质量的游戏推荐目录。尽管苹果没有明确限定Arcade的游戏数量，但他们不想让Arcade成为另一个App Store。
Kunabi Brother的老板Denis Mikan就这一点补充说道：“编辑推荐是该服务的核心——推荐多少游戏、哪些游戏，如何在Apple Store里宣传这些游戏。这对苹果来说不容易，但到目前为止，我们很满意。我认为他们的第一步做得很好。”
在与Bandai Namco公司制作人Charles Capelle的交谈中，他透露了一件怪事，与其它手游不同，他们无法直接追踪Pac-Man的数据。他们只能通过苹果公司得知游戏是否成功。
34bigthings的首席营销官Max Da Viá补充道：“订阅模式越来越受欢迎，不仅在移动平台上，其他平台也一样。我认为付费下载产品仍有发展空间。无论是手游市场还是Steam，游戏大作仍然会以付费下载的形式发行，订阅将作为一种推广或者次要产品的发行方式。”
Xbox最近在GamesIndustry.biz投资峰会上公布，Game Pass的订阅者不仅玩了更多的游戏，也购买了更多游戏。Apple Arcade能取得同样的效果吗？苹果公司代表无法肯定，但他随即强调Arcade的推出不代表iOS平台付费下载游戏的消亡。
Like Xbox Game Pass before it, Apple Arcade is vying to prove that the subscription model can transform the games industry just as it has other forms of entertainment. However, unlike Game Pass, the mobile service stands to reach a far broader audience thanks to the ubiquity of the devices that carry it.
Apple Arcade is still very new, having only launched in September, but it already has 100 games in its catalogue. At a recent event in London, an Apple representative said he believes this is “unprecedented within platform launches.” The variety of games on offer is not insignificant, again speaking to the wider audience developers can reach through smartphones (and tablets, Macs and Apple TV, as the firm kept reminding us).
This reach is “invaluable” to studios like Italian startup 34bigthings, said co-founder Guiseppe Franchi. The developer’s Arcade offering, sci-fi shooter Redout: Space Assault, is a prequel to the original Redout, which mainly appealed to hardcore PC gamers. With touch screen controls, or the ability to pair your device with a controller, 34bigthings has made Space Assault more accessible in the hopes of attracting a broader range of players.
The game was originally going to be self-published on PC and console (and will still launch on these platforms next year), but its inclusion in Apple Arcade as part of a subscription is both a “good deal” and opportunity for the studio.
Similarly, Lifelike — the “mesmerising particle symphony” by Vienna-based indie Kunabi Brother — is the type of game that stands a better chance of reaching people through a subscription. Based around various meditation concepts, this spiritual successor to the team’s previous game Frost would have been “very risky” to release as a premium title.
“This is a very exotic and daring game concept, so Apple Arcade was the perfect game platform at the perfect time,” said the studio’s Julia Angerer.
Lifelike was officially produced by Apple, which means it was also at least partly funded by the electronics giant. While Kunabi Brother can’t go into the specifics of the deal — the same answer given by every developer on Arcade — this “definitely encouraged us to take the risk to produce this.”
Both Lifelike and Redout, along with most other games at the showcase, were previously planned as premium titles before their developers secured deals to launch on Apple Arcade. And Apple is also keen to offer games exclusive to the service, collaborating with more familiar names to produce them.
Pac-Man Party Royale, for example, was developed by Parisian studio Pastagames in partnership with Bandai Namco, specifically for Apple Arcade. Game designer Nadim Haddad said this required “a 100% different design.”
“There’s no in-app purchase, no advertising, nothing you’re used to in modern mobile games,” he explained. “So we could concentrate 100% on the gameplay itself.”
Picomy art director Jimmy De Meza echoed this. His studio’s game Monomals — which is about fishing for sound effects and using them to compose music — was going to be a freemium game for Apple Watch. The scope and ambition grew beyond this platform, but since Apple paid to secure the game as an exclusive for Arcade, Picomy did not have to compromise on its design.
“We have all the freedom to keep the vision and develop the game according to how we see it, how it will work as the best experience for the player, and Apple has been really helpful with all the other parts of bringing the game to Arcade,” said De Meza.
However, herein lies the first of many unanswered questions surrounding Apple Arcade. Neither the developers nor Apple are able to explain how studios are paid in the long term. Is the monthly fee split based on play time, or is it a one-off payment to get the game onto the service?
In a group Q&A, the Apple representative said: “Aside from the fact we help them financially, I can’t get into [the details of] individual deals. From the feedback you’ll get from the developers, I think you’ll get that it’s a great way for them to launch games.”
Both Monomals and Pac-Man are expected to receive hefty updates in future, including new game modes, levels and characters. Yet it’s unclear how the further development required for this post-launch content is funded. When asked, Pastagames’ Haddad said, “That’s an Apple question” — an answer we heard from almost every developer on a variety of subjects.
It’s safe to assume Apple has set aside a significant investment to fund this initial wave of titles. When appealing to an audience as vast and with such disparate tastes as iOS users, it serves to have 100-plus titles available within the first few weeks. But what happens when that initial cash pot runs out? How do developers get their games onto Arcade?
Another point of confusion is whether any of these launch games are permanent fixtures. From Netflix to Game Pass, most subscription services shake up their catalogue periodically, dropping older content in favour of the new.
Apple’s representative emphasised that the service is too young, adding: “Right now, we’re very focused on the launch part, so we’re not thinking about or commenting on removing them.”
He went on to assure that Arcade will always be “a very curated catalogue” focused around quality. While there’s no defined upper limit for the number of titles Apple would like to see on the service, Arcade is not intended to become another App Store with hundreds of thousands of games.
The Apple representative added: “You’ll have a little bit of recommendation, but also a lot of editorially curated relevant categories and subcategories that we encourage you to browse. The idea is you can go in, explore, look at the product pages and find what you like. It’s a hub for discoverability and finding games you might love.”
Kunabi Brother boss Denis Mikan is encouraged by this, adding: “The curation is key to how this works — how many titles and which titles are there, and of course how those titles are promoted on the App Store. It’s also difficult for [Apple], having to experiment, but up until now we are very satisfied. I think they’ve done really well with the first steps.”
In fact, one thing all the developers seem to be far less concerned about is the possibility of their games being buried. Given the challenge of discovery in the mobile market as it stands, 34bigthings’ Franchi said Arcade developers are “in a privileged spot.”
Mikan added: “When you compare to the number of apps on the premium market, Arcade really gives us more of a chance. If you’re one of 100… it’s an attractive spot to be. The premium market for such apps is tough. This takes the risk away. We don’t know how it will go, but it really was a no-brainer for us.”
One last oddity emerged from talking to Bandai Namco producer Charles Capelle, who revealed that, unlike with other mobile games, the publisher cannot directly track Pac-Man’s performance. Instead, it relies on Apple to “tell us whether the game is successful or not.”
On the one hand, this is freeing in its own way; no longer will studios have to pore over data in order to identify retention rates, average revenue per user, average session length and all the other metrics that drive the free-to-play market. On the other, Arcade developers are blind as to whether they’re taking the right direction post-launch.
“[Data is] something that usually helps to make the game better, but because there’s all this controversy about mobile gaming at the moment — advertising is bad, tracking is bad, gacha boxes are bad — it’s also very refreshing as game designers to work on an Apple Arcade game because it allows us to focus on gameplay and not worry about monetisation aspects,” Capelle said.
“It’s a bit harder to update the game based on live data because we don’t have it. But we can only use our gut feeling as game designers to figure out what’s wrong, and also try to stay aware of the feedback from the community and bring fixes that directly answer that, but also what we think is missing from the game.”
The biggest question the industry is waiting for an answer to is the impact subscription services will have on premium games. The market for premium games on mobile has been notoriously challenging for years, as audiences gravitated towards free-to-play, but Mikan believes Arcade and premium “will still co-exist together” — especially as “it was before Apple Arcade that the premium market got tougher.”
De Meza points out that, while the range of games in Arcade is broad, it might not (yet) have something that caters to particular tastes. And there will always be mobile users who would prefer to pay a one-off fee of £4.99 for a specific game, than £4.99 every month for a catalogue of hundreds.
Capelle declared subscription to be “the answer for all the people tired of the free-to-play model, because the advertisement, tracking and in-app purchases [are gone].”
He continued: “People are used to the subscription model on TV and in other media, so for video games it could be the answer and what some people expect. They really just want to pay at the beginning of every month and be done with it, not have to pay for DLC or loot boxes. I think it’s a nice direction for the industry that’s really allowing us to focus on game design.
“I know I’m repeating myself, but it’s very important for game designers to not have to cut the part of their game or try to remove some of the fun or implement something that leads everyone to pay. We don’t have to do that, and we can really make the game instantly fun because that’s what we want.”
34bigthings’ chief marketing officer Max Da Viá added: “Subscription programs are becoming very popular, not only on mobile but also on all other platforms as well. I think there will still be space for premium products. Subscription will be used for catalogue or less relevant releases, I think big releases will still be released as premium products, both for mobile and for Steam.”
Xbox recently said at the GamesIndustry.biz Investment Summit that not only are Game Pass subscribers playing more games, they’re buying more of them as well. Will Arcade have the same effect on the App Store? The Apple representative was unsure, but he was quick to emphasise that the launch of Arcade does not equate to the death of premium games on iOS.
“There are games that are extremely successful on premium — Minecraft is a good example,” he concluded. “We think Apple Arcade is another way for people to play and will ultimately benefit our gaming ecosystem and gaming as a whole. People will just enjoy more, want to play more, want to experiment more, and that’s something we want.
“This is complementary to games on the App Store and is just one more way to play. Maybe for some people it’s the only way they’ll play, but for many other people it’s going to be one more.”（source：Gamesindustry）