This Friday, the Olympics will begin in Tokyo, Japan, and for the first time, skateboarding will be on display as an official Olympic sport. To mark the occasion, Skate City, the Apple Arcade game produced by Snowman and developed by Agens Games, is releasing an update that adds Tokyo to the game’s collection of cities this Friday, July 23rd.
According to Ryan Cash of Snowman:
For the last few years we’ve been looking for an interesting way to tie a real-world event into something we make, but we never wanted to do anything that didn’t feel meaningful. When the Tokyo games were announced it was a no-brainer for us. Skateboarding’s coming to the Olympics for the first time in history, which is a triumphant moment for the sport. We knew we had to be part of it in some small way.
The new Tokyo level features 21 new challenges and 30 new goals in Endless Skate mode, along with additions to the game’s soundtrack, new decks and clothing options to unlock, and leaderboards.
Judging from the trailer, the latest expansion, which Snowman says is Skate City’s largest yet, looks fantastic. The cityscape is full of vibrant, neon colors that set it apart from the other cities in the game.
Jon Porter of The Verge rounds up recent discoveries about the new Apple TV 4K’s Siri Remote. First reported by Digital Trends, the new Siri Remote lacks an accelerometer and gyroscope. As Porter explains:
The change means that the new Siri Remote won’t work with certain Apple TV games that rely on motion controls. According to code in tvOS 14.5 seen by MacRumors, trying to play an incompatible game will lead to the following error message: “To play this game on your Apple TV, you need to connect the Apple TV Remote (1st generation) or a compatible PlayStation, Xbox or MFi controller.”
On one level, the omission of the sensors in the new Siri Remote is surprising because it comes hard on the heels of an expansion of Apple Arcade’s offerings on all platforms, including the Apple TV. Still, the original Siri Remote was never a good game controller. The button layout and diminutive size made it a poor substitute for a traditional game controller. The new Siri Remote is a little bigger than the former version, but I don’t expect it would work any better as a controller.
With support for Microsoft and Sony controllers available since tvOS 13 and the addition of support for current-generation console controllers in tvOS 14.5, Apple has clearly made the decision that a purpose-built controller provides a better gaming experience. I just wish Apple would consider making its own controller with a fast, low latency connection like AirPods, which benefits from Apple’s proprietary technology layer that sits on top of Bluetooth.
Microsoft’s and Apple’s bets on downloadable subscription services would seemingly place them behind their streaming counterparts in the long run, but that’s not quite the case. Their success shows that they’re neither ahead of the curve nor behind it; they’re simply meeting the expectations of their players. Apple debuted 30 games on Friday on a service that costs $4.99 a month and is often included in larger Apple product purchases for free. Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass Ultimate tier costs $14.99 a month and includes games on Xbox console, Windows PC, and Android devices — and will now regularly feature launch-day releases from Xbox Game Studios, Bethesda Softworks, and even Sony, along with a rotating collection of more than 100 catalog titles. They’re providing the best deals in gaming at this moment.
Timeless Classics and App Store Greats are differentiated by the addition of a ‘+’ in their title.
Second, Arcade includes two new game categories: Timeless Classics and App Store Greats, which are a big collection of all-time favorite iOS games that are now available at no extra cost as part of an Arcade subscription on the iPhone and iPad and differentiated from other titles with the addition of a ‘+’ in their titles. Games included in the category include Zach Gage’s Good Soduku, Mini Metro, Fruit Ninja Classic, Badland, Blek, Flipflop Solitaire, Reigns, Monument Valley, and more. It’s an impressive list of classics that that is great to see spotlighted by Apple and preserved.
It’s good to see Arcade expanding, especially with the addition of iOS classics. Game and app preservation is something that has been an issue on iOS with the relentless evolution of the platform. Many games got left behind with the switch to a 64-bit processor architecture and other games were never updated for new hardware specifications. With the addition of classics to Arcade, the best of the App Store lives on for new players to enjoy, which is fantastic.
In a press release today, Apple provided an update on its services. According to Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services:
Now more than ever before, customers around the world have found inspiration and value in the breadth and quality of Apple’s services, which have impacted their lives in big and small ways every day. We’re incredibly optimistic about where we’re headed, and we believe that the opportunities for developers and the creative community are endless, as are the positive and meaningful benefits to our customers.
Among the highlights Apple shared are App Store revenue numbers for the 2020 holiday season, which were greater than 2019 for the same period and once again set an all-time record for single-day sales on New Year’s Day:
The trend continued over the holiday season, with App Store customers spending $1.8 billion on digital goods and services over the week between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, driven largely by spending on games. Customers ushered in 2021 by setting a new single-day spending record of over $540 million on New Year’s Day.
Apple also noted that developers have earned more than $200 billion since the inception of the App Store in 2008 and that it kicked off the App Store Small Business Program at the end of 2020.
In addition to apps, Apple recapped its other services:
Apple Music, which added several new features in 2020 that Apple says have been used by more than 90% of iOS 14 users
The Apple TV App, which debuted on new smart TVs and videogame consoles in 2020 and is now available on over 1 billion screens in more than 100 countries
TV+, which gained a dedicated tab in the TV app and was nominated for 159 awards, receiving 45
Apple News, which added local news for certain cities, included special coverage of the pandemic, the racial justice movement, and the US election, and added audio to News+ in 2020
Fitness+, which debuted just before the New Year
Apple Pay, which Apple says is accepted by more than 90% of US stores, 85% of UK stores, and 99% of Australian stores
Apple Arcade, which now has more than 140 games with games that have received more than 50 award nominations
Apple Books, which has over 90 million monthly active users
Apple Podcasts, which is available in 175 countries and 100 languages
iCloud, 85% of whose users have enabled two-factor authentication
Every year I’m struck that the App Store continues to set holiday season records for sales. The success of the App Store has been nothing short of remarkable, but as Apple’s press release demonstrates, Apple’s current services story today extends far beyond apps.
Today, Apple launched its previously-announced Apple One subscription bundles, which offer the following three combinations of services:
Individual – Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and 50GB of iCloud storage for $14.95
Family – Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and 200GB of shared iCloud storage for $19.95 for up to six family members
Premier – Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, Fitness+, Apple News+, and 2TB of shared iCloud storage for $29.95 for up to six family members
Compared to paying for each service separately, the Individual plan saves users $6, the Family plan saves $8, and the Premier plan has the greatest savings at $25 but is only available in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia because News+ is limited to those countries. Apple is also offering a 30-day free trial and 3% cash back if you use the Apple Card.
The Apple One bundle signup flow.
You can currently sign up for an Apple One bundle by going to the App Store on an iOS or iPadOS device and tapping your profile picture in the top right corner of the screen. Tap on your profile at the top of the next screen and then Subscriptions, where you should find a banner promoting Apple One.
Moving iCloud Storage from one Apple ID to the another.
If like me, you have separate Apple IDs for iCloud and media purchases, you will be asked to move your storage plan to the Apple ID you use for iCloud, which cancels the old iCloud Storage subscription.
Signing up for the Premier tier was a no-brainer as someone who already paid for 2TB of storage, a Family Apple Music subscription, and Apple Arcade. News+ isn’t something I was willing to pay for separately, but it’s nice to have, and I’m very interested in trying Fitness+ as the weather gets colder here in Chicago, making outdoor walks and runs more difficult.
Today during an event in which Apple revealed new Apple Watch and iPad models, the company also had some big services news to share: to increase adoption of the company’s growing slate of services, a new Apple One bundle will be launching soon to bring together multiple paid services at a discounted price.
Although Apple One doesn’t carry an official release date yet besides simply ‘fall,’ Apple did detail the breakdown of pricing and included services across three different Apple One tiers:
Individual: Includes Apple Music, TV+, Arcade, and 50 GB of iCloud storage for an individual at $14.95/month, a savings of $6/month.
Family: Also includes Apple Music, TV+, and Arcade, but with 200 GB of iCloud storage and Family Sharing for all services, at $19.95/month for savings of $8/month.
Premier: This is the big bundle, including Apple Music, TV+, Arcade, News+, the newly announced Fitness+, as well as 2 TB of iCloud storage for $29.95/month, a savings of $25/month.
The Individual and Family tiers of Apple One will be launching in over 100 countries to reach the widest number of users possible. Premier, however, since it includes services like News+ which are only available in limited territories, will only be available in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia at launch.
When Apple One launches, users will be able to try any of the three tiers with a 30-day free trial for services that they aren’t already paying for. It’s also worth noting that according to Apple’s website, Fitness+ likely won’t be available until after Apple One debuts, since it carries a launch window of ‘Late 2020’ while Apple One is ‘Coming this fall.’
Apple One’s tiered structure makes a lot of sense, and the savings seem pretty enticing, especially for the Premier plan. As someone who already subscribes to every Apple service, Premier will be a no-brainer to me as I’ll gain Fitness+ and a higher iCloud storage plan for less than the $38/month I’m paying right now.
I’m perpetually confounded by Apple’s approach to gaming. For every encouraging development like Apple Arcade last year and the controller and Game Center announcements at WWDC this year, there’s a story like the blocking of Microsoft’s xCloud service from the App Store and the ongoing legal dispute with Epic. As uneven as Apple’s recent and long-term history with gaming has been, though, it’s clear that the company understands that games are a lucrative part of the App Store as it continues to introduce new gaming enhancements to its OSes. This year’s updates center on deeper game controller support and a refreshed Game Center experience.
Last year saw the surprise introduction of support for Microsoft’s Bluetooth-enabled Xbox controllers and the Sony DualShock 4 controller on Apple devices. As I wrote at the time, the initial integration of the controllers was excellent, and a substantial improvement over most of the expensive MFi controller options previously available. As a result, it’s no surprise this year that Apple has extended its support for controllers, even further expanding coverage to new controllers and adding support for features like haptics, rumble, motion, lights, and special input options. Apple is also adding support for button and other input remapping on iOS, iPadOS, and tvOS, but curiously not macOS.
The other pillar of Apple’s gaming story is Game Center, which hasn’t seen much love in recent years. Game Center debuted alongside iOS 4 in 2010, but with iOS 10 the dedicated Game Center app was eliminated, relegating Game Center functionality like leaderboards and achievements to APIs that developers could incorporate directly into their apps. Game Center isn’t returning as a standalone app in 2020. Instead, it is receiving a significant makeover that raises its profile in games and on the App Store, creating the potential to make gaming on Apple devices more social than in the past.
Anti-gravity rainbows, cute animal characters, prize machines, co-operative play, and endless tower platforming: if this all sounds like the perfect diversion during a long stay indoors, you’re absolutely right.
Crossy Road Castle is a long-awaited sequel to the original Crossy Road and one of the newest Apple Arcade titles. But don’t let the word ‘sequel’ mislead you – Crossy Road Castle offers an entirely different gaming experience than its predecessor. Think less “crossing the road” and more “climbing an endless tower, one micro-level at a time.”