A ton of new content just arrived on Apple Arcade

The main square of the New District in Fantasian

As a current Apple Arcade subscriber, I’ve been pretty underwhelmed. I wrote about my thoughts on the service in early 2020 and I was optimistic about its future. Unfortunately, the flow of content, especially worthwhile games, has been slow. I was ready to finally end my subscription until a slew of new content dropped in early April, which is probably the most at one time since launch. Hopefully, this is a sign of more to come.

The Denver Nuggets coming to the bench during a timeout in NBA 2K21

Apple Arcade isn’t Dead!

On April 2, Apple Arcade dropped 10 new games they call “Arcade Originals”. There are some big names featured. You’ve got NBA 2K21, a new Star Trek game, and new releases from developers PlatinumGames (the people behind Bayonetta among others) and Mistwalker Corp (the creator of Final Fantasy). On top of that, they also added a slew of updated classic games, or “App Store Greats”, which includes stuff like Fruit Ninja, Threes!, and Monument Valley

Before this update, games released on Apple Arcade were very spaced out. It could be weeks between notable releases and with very little marketing. Of the games, I have downloaded from Apple Arcade, I only had six installed on my iPad, and Mini Motorways was the only one I was playing. 

Outside of Mini Motorways, Spek was the last game I really invested time into. I really liked it and managed to finish its puzzles in a couple of hours. But Spek wasn’t a new release, having been on the service since 2019. I tried to get into some of the longer-form games but quickly lost interest. I would start a game, play for about 30 minutes then move on. It was hard for me to find a game that kept me interested.

A Mix of New and Classic

A section of gameplay from Mini Metro, showcasing five lines servicing a city

I really felt like it wasn’t worth maintaining a subscription if I was only going to play Mini Motorways. Fortunately, I’ve been playing a few of the new games this week and while I’m still not sure how much longevity I’ll have with most, it’s refreshing that there is so much new content available.

As a fan of Mini Motorways, it really should not come as any surprise that I’ve been playing a lot of Mini Metro+. Having never played the original, I can’t compare this version to it. Thankfully though, it has me hooked. 

I took in a quick game of Threes!+, which feels exactly the same as the original game (which I got many years ago). I didn’t notice anything new or different, which is a bit disappointing. If there is something new, it doesn’t do a good job of highlighting what that might be.

Of the new games, I’ve enjoyed my brief time with FANTASIAN, an RPG from the creator of Final Fantasy. I’ve spent about an hour, with its visuals have really stood out the most. On the reserve side of things, NBA 2K21 isn’t really doing it for me. It’s a very baseline version of the game with few modes. I am not enjoying the screen controls, which just don’t feel that good on an iPad. It doesn’t feel any better playing it on an iPhone SE (the 2020 version). It’s a game that feels like you must play it with a controller, which it does support.

Answering a question in SongPop Party

Another surprise is SongPop Party, which is a “Guess the Song” game. It’s not overly hard and very reminiscent of the party trivia games that have been hugely popular during quarantine. I just hope it has solid multiplayer, which includes playing with people on the same iPad or even streaming support. 

Keeping the momentum

Ultimately, this update to Apple Arcade was long overdue and clearly a sign that Apple needs to do more to keep people invested in their service. I’ve been playing regularly for the last week or so, but the most enjoyment I’m having is from the older games. My wife saw me playing Cut The Rope and Fruit Ninja, which piqued her interest. She’s not a gamer but she recognized those games and joked with me when I messed up.

The classic games are a nice addition but again, if you have those games (which you probably do if you have a mobile device), they aren’t what’s supposed to drive you to the service. I played a bit of the newer stuff but they haven’t done a lot to keep me invested. I am enjoying Clap Handz Golf, and I’m willing to put in a bit more time with FANTASIAN. But outside of those two, the others haven’t had me coming back for more.

attempting to sink a putt in Clap Handz Golf

Apple, please don’t mess this up

Perhaps pushing a bunch of new and classic games in one shot will have been a bad move by Apple. It’s been about two weeks and there hasn’t been a new game added to Arcade. Sure, we have three games in the “Coming Soon” section, but it’s not the same thing. Like other monthly subscription services, you need to offer a steady flow of fresh content. If it stays silent, like before, then this huge push will have been just another wasted moment.