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Posts tagged with "games"

Arcade Launches for Some iOS Beta Testers

Earlier today, a series of reviews of Apple Arcade were published across the web and on YouTube. Shortly thereafter, Apple took the wraps off the service itself for at least a subset of people running the iOS 13 or 13.1 betas. Arcade doesn’t officially launch until September 19th, but it appears that Apple is using a slow roll-out to some beta testers to test the service and create buzz around the launch.

The design of the Arcade tab is reminiscent of the App Store’s other tabs, although more space is reserved for spotlighting individual titles, and so far, there is little editorial content. It will be interesting to see how this mix evolves as more games become available and more editorial content is created. In addition to themed collections like ‘Start Your Adventure’ and ‘No Time to Blink,’ Arcade has a section dedicated to ‘New Arrivals,’ includes hint guides for three of the games and a button at the bottom of the view for accessing every game in the service.

The activation of Arcade for some users coincided with a press release from Apple highlighting four games by smaller game studios: The Enchanted World, Patterned, Overland, and Card of Darkness. I haven’t had a chance to comb through the entire catalog yet, but there are a lot of great-looking games featured at launch that jumped out at me including:

I’m looking forward to trying all of these as well as discovering new titles.

As I said on AppStories this week, I’ve been cautiously optimistic and excited about Arcade. What I’ve seen of the new service in my brief time with it so far today is perfectly in line with what I hoped for. Apple seems to have struck a nice balance among many different categories of games, and with only about half of the 100+ titles that should be coming soon, that is an excellent start.


Apple Highlights Arcade Titles in New Video

Today on its YouTube channel, Apple published a new video highlighting some of the titles coming to Apple Arcade once it launches next Thursday alongside iOS 13.

The video spends nearly two minutes providing quick glimpses at a lot of Arcade titles, while lingering for extended periods over a handful of titles that haven’t been seen much before, such as Earth Night, Hot Lava, Skate City, and more.

The demos Apple shared on-stage at its September event received mixed responses, but I would expect a much more enthusiastic response to greet this video. Everything showcased looks fantastic, offering interesting stories, gameplay mechanics, and visuals. If Apple really does have 100+ games like this at or near launch, Arcade is going to quickly become a very compelling service.


Apple Unveils Apple Arcade Game Subscription Details

Today, Apple took the wraps off of Apple Arcade, the game subscription service that will bring a curated selection of games to iOS devices, the Apple TV, and Macs. Although the service was originally announced in March, until today, few details were available.

During the keynote event at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California, Apple shared new details about Arcade, which will be available beginning September 19th on iOS, September 30th on iPadOS, and in October on macOS Catalina. As promised, Arcade features games with no ads, In-App Purchases, or other add-ons. Instead, for $4.99 per month, subscribers can download any of the games in Arcade’s catalog on their devices from the dedicated Arcade tab in the iOS and Mac App Stores, and a separate pre-installed Arcade app on Apple TVs. Games are available to up to six family members through Apple’s Family Sharing feature, sync progress across devices with iCloud, and do not require an Internet connection to be played.

Phil Schiller had the following to say about Arcade in Apple’s press release:

“We are so excited to launch Apple Arcade on the App Store. A curated selection of over 100 new and exclusive games from many of the most innovative game developers in the world is the perfect complement to the App Store’s existing massive catalog of games,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “We think customers of all ages are going to be delighted that a single subscription gives the whole family unlimited access to the full catalog of amazing Apple Arcade games, all without any ads or additional purchases, while knowing every game must meet Apple’s high privacy standards.”

The new Arcade tab in the App Store will feature personalized game recommendations, game trailers, and editorial content that appears to be similar to what the App Store editorial team has been creating since iOS 11. Apple says:

The catalog will exceed 100 games in the coming weeks as new titles are introduced, with more games to come every month.

As rumored, Arcade will cost $4.99 per month and Apple will offer a one-month free trial.

It’s heartening to see Apple take an interest in promoting high-quality games with artistic value. I’m hopeful that the promise of services revenue will push Apple even further to make its devices first-rate gaming platforms. Helping game developers produce and promote top-notch games for its platforms is a fantastic first step. However, whether Arcade will succeed will depend largely on the undisclosed terms of Apple’s business deals with developers. If that piece of the puzzle works for everyone involved, next I’d like to see Apple address hardware limitations of its devices, especially the Mac, which has difficulty handling anything but the simplest games.


You can follow all of our Apple event coverage through our September 10, 2019 hub, or subscribe to the dedicated September 10, 2019 RSS feed.


Classic iOS Game Service GameClub Is Coming this Fall

First announced in March just ahead of the annual Game Developer Conference in San Francisco, GameClub has released a video revealing that the classic iOS game subscription service is coming later this fall. GameClub is working with developers of classic iOS titles that no longer work on modern hardware or versions of iOS to update and re-release them as part of their service free of ads and In-App Purchases.

Since March, GameClub has been running a free public beta test that has released updates of classic games like Hook Champ, Incoboto, Rocket Ski Racing, Super Crate Box, Legendary Wars, and Mage Gauntlet. During the beta period, those games have been free to play by anyone who signs up, but will become part of the subscription service this fall.

MacRumors reports that the subscription service will include over 50 titles at launch with new games released weekly, adding that:

In addition to classic titles, after launch, GameClub plans to expand into new and original premium games.

GameClub pricing hasn’t been announced, although the company told MacRumors it would be a ‘small monthly fee.’ The company has also said that if you owned one of the classic games they are bringing back, you’ll be able to download it again free of charge even if you don’t subscribe.

Apple is on the cusp of launching its own game subscription service called Arcade. At first blush, that may seem like it puts GameClub in a tough spot, but I don’t think so. Unlike Arcade’s curated collection of new titles, GameClub’s catalog is packed with proven classics curated by GameClub’s Vice President of Business Development and former TouchArcade editor-in-chief Eli Hodapp. Nostalgia for classic games and increasing efforts to preserve them in recent years puts GameClub in a unique position to carve out an important role for themselves. I can’t wait to hear the final details and try GameClub myself.


Apple Hits Restart on Game Controller Support

It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly six years since Apple added game controller support to iOS. The big news at WWDC in 2013 was the iOS 7 redesign, but for game developers, it was rivaled by the announcement that third-party Made For iPhone (MFi) controllers were coming.

The game press and developers understood the potential of controller support immediately. Even though it wasn’t announced there, Chris Plante of Polygon declared controller support the biggest story of E3, the game industry trade show that was happening at the same time as WWDC. Plante imagined that:

If Apple finds a way to standardize traditional controls, every iOS device will become a transportable console. In a year, both iPhones and iPads will approach the processing power of the current-generation devices. Companies will have the ability to port controller-based games for the mobile devices in millions of pockets — an install-base far greater than they’ve ever had before.

Game industry veteran Gabe Newell, the co-founder of Valve, saw Apple’s entry as a big risk to companies making PC and console games:

The threat right now is that Apple has gained a huge amount of market share, and has a relatively obvious pathway towards entering the living room with their platform…I think Apple rolls the console guys really easily.

I was right there with them. iOS devices couldn’t match the power of a traditional console in 2013, but you could see that they were on a trajectory to get there. With the addition of controller support, Apple felt poised to make a meaningful run at incumbents like Sony and Microsoft.

It didn’t work out that way though. iOS’ controller support was rushed to market. Early controllers were priced at around $100, in part because of the requirements of the MFi certification, and they couldn’t match the quality of controllers from Sony and Microsoft.

As anticipated, controller support was extended to the Apple TV when its App Store launched in 2015. Initially, it looked as though Apple would allow game developers to require a controller. In the end, though, the company went an entirely different direction by requiring that games support the Apple TV Remote, a decision that complicated development and dumbed down controller integration to match the remote’s limited input methods. Apple changed course eventually, and now lets developers require controllers, but by the time of that change the damage had been done. Many developers had already lost interest in controller support. It didn’t help either that for a very long time, the App Store didn’t indicate which games were compatible with MFi controllers, leaving the void to be filled by third-party sites.

Last year, when I looked back at the history of games on the App Store for its tenth anniversary, I came away pessimistic about the future of games on Apple’s platforms. After a decade, I felt like we were still asking the same question that Federico posed in 2013:

Will Apple ever develop a culture and appreciation for gaming as a medium, not just an App Store category?

Sadly, Federico’s question remains as relevant today as it was six years ago. Still, I’m cautiously optimistic based on what’s happened in the past year. Part of that is the App Store editorial team’s excellent track record of championing high-quality games in the stories published on the App Store. Another factor is Apple Arcade, the game subscription service we still don’t know a lot about, but which appears designed to showcase high-quality, artistically important games.

The latest cause for optimism is Apple’s announcement at WWDC this past June that iOS, iPadOS, tvOS, and macOS would all support the Sony DualShock 4 and Bluetooth-based Xbox controllers when Apple’s OSes are updated this fall. The reaction from developers and other observers was a combination of surprise and excitement that was uncannily similar to the MFi announcement in 2013. Yet, the news begs the question: ‘How is this time any different?’ The answer to that question lies in how the new controllers work and the role they will play in Arcade.

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Game Day: Dead Cells

Dead Cells by Motion Twin landed on mobile for the first time today with its release on iOS. The game, which the Bordeaux, France-based game studio describes as a ‘rogue-lite, metroidvania action-platformer,’ has been adapted for mobile by publisher Playdigious. I’ve been playing Dead Cells on a variety of iOS devices for the past two weeks both with onscreen controls and controllers, and it’s quickly become my favorite iOS game of 2019 so far.

Dead Cells, which debuted in 2017 and is also available for consoles and PC, is not an easy game. You play as a warrior raised from the dead, battling your way through dungeon mazes. Along the way, you collect weapons, cells, which can be used to upgrade your weapons, and other items. When you die, you lose any unused cells and some of the items you’ve collected. However, other upgrades are permanent and remain intact between sessions. Combined with levels that are partially procedurally generated and provide variety between attempts to defeat enemies, the mechanic creates a fun tension that makes Dead Cells extremely hard to put down.

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Mario Kart Tour Coming to iOS September 25

Following a pre-announcement in 2018 and a delay earlier this year, Mario Kart Tour will finally arrive on the iPhone and iPad soon. September 25 is the official release date, and you can pre-order the game on the App Store now so it will automatically download on release day.

Mario Kart Tour will be a free download upon launch, with In-App Purchases required for certain content. It’s unclear at this time which gameplay elements will be free and which will be locked behind an In-App Purchase, but more details are expected leading up to the title’s release.

The video above offers a glimpse at the game’s control scheme. Steering will take place by holding one finger on-screen and dragging it slightly to the left or right; it may just be a video, but the controls seem especially well suited for a smartphone, appearing far more natural than something like on-screen buttons might have.

In years past the debut of a popular title like Mario Kart Tour might have been something we’d see on-stage at the September Apple event. This year, however, Apple Arcade is bound to receive all the stage time dedicated to gaming, and to this point Nintendo hasn’t signed on to create any Arcade titles. If Arcade takes off, however, it will be interesting to see if that approach changes in the future.


Game Day: Minit

Minit is a new-to-iOS indie adventure game by Jan Willem Nijman, the co-founder of Vlambeer, Kitty Calis, Jukio Kallio, and Dominik Johann. The game, which was brought to iOS a little over one week ago by Devolver Digital, first debuted in April 2018 and is now available on all major consoles, PCs, and mobile platforms. It’s a fantastic game that benefits from the high-resolution screens and excellent sound available on iOS devices but also suffers a little from onscreen joystick controls. That issue can be remedied with an MFi controller, but even playing with the onscreen controls, Minit has quickly become one of my favorite iOS games of 2019.

Minit’s hook is that the hero you control only has a minute to live, a mechanic that’s perfect for a mobile game. As you race around the game’s map, solving puzzles and discovering items, you have to move fast because when the minute is up, you die and have to start over again.

If that sounds frustrating, it really isn’t. You have to start over after you die, but not entirely from the beginning. The ticking clock certainly makes Minit challenging, but it cleverly avoids becoming frustrating by letting your character retain items, powers, and locations even after you die. For example, one of the first items you discover in the game is a cursed sword that is central to the game’s story. When you inevitably die and respawn to continue exploring, you don’t need to grab the sword again because it will already be at your side. The same holds true of powers like pushing objects and locations that become your new home, which avoids the monotony of having to restart the game from the same point over and over.

Minit strikes a careful balance with its core mechanic, allowing just enough progress to be made each time you play to keep you coming back for more. It also helps that no matter where I’ve been on the game’s map, I’ve always felt that I had multiple options each time I restarted. That’s an essential element of avoiding frustration because even when I’ve gotten stuck on a particular quest, I’ve had the option to set out in a different direction and make progress elsewhere.

The game’s art and sound design are top-notch too. The artwork is entirely black and white with chunky pixel characters and environments that convey a sense of whimsy and fun. Coupled with an excellent soundtrack and sound effects, Minit imbues its world with a personality that brings its simple environment to life in a way that transcends any one aspect of the game.

Minit’s controls are just as simple as its artwork. There’s a virtual joystick in the lower left corner of the screen for moving your character and an attack button in the opposite corner. The gameplay is simple enough that the onscreen joystick works reasonably well, but it’s still not as good as a controller with a dedicated thumbstick, especially when lining up your character to attack an enemy. Relatively few iOS gamers have MFi controllers now, but iOS 13 should give games like Minit a boost in the fall when the OS adds support for Bluetooth-based PS4 and Xbox controllers that far more people already own.

Even relying on the onscreen controls though, I’ve had a blast playing Minit. It took the game with me on a short 4th of July road trip, and it was the perfect companion for the long drive and when I had some time to myself in the evenings. Minit treads some of the same ground as similar retro-style adventure games I’ve played before, but the combination of the timer mechanic and unique black-and-white world make it stand head and shoulders above similar games.

Minit is available on the App Store for $4.99.


Apple Brings Back Texas Hold’em

When the App Store opened for business in 2008, Apple released Texas Hold’em, the company’s first and only iOS game and successor to an iPod version that debuted in 2006. The game, which Stephen Hackett profiled for MacStories last year was short-lived, disappearing from the App Store in 2011.

In the eight years since the game’s release, Apple has left the iOS game market to third-party developers, with the exception of Warren Buffett’s Paper Wizard. Today, however, the company released an updated version, which was spotted by an eagle-eyed 9to5Mac reader. Strangely, the game’s description says the release is meant to celebrate the App Store’s 10th Anniversary, which occurred last July 10th, not quite 11 years ago today.

In any event, Texas Hold’em is back with new graphics to support the resolution and screen sizes of modern iPhones along with new characters and ‘more challenging gameplay.’ The app, which originally sold for $4.99, is now free too.

Launching the game for the first time in many years, brought an instant wave of early App Store nostalgia. Even if card games aren’t your thing, Texas Hold’em is worth a look because so much of the original feel of one of the earliest iPhone games is preserved in this update.

Texas Hold’em is available as a free download on the App Store.