Get your game on: Apple Arcade opens for business [Review]

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Apple Arcade
Apple Arcade has a surprisingly wide array of games for a service launching today.
Photo: Apple

You can write off being productive for the rest of the day because Apple Arcade just launched. This all-you-can-play gaming service brings dozens of titles in a variety of genres. The monthly cost is fairly low, and games can be played on almost every type of Apple computer.

Thanks to early access, I’ve been enjoying Apple Arcade for several days. Here’s why I think you’ll like it too.

A wide selection

Apple Arcade is supposed to have “more than 100 titles at launch,” though Apple gave itself until mid-October to meet that mark. At present, there are several dozen available.

Thanks to early access, I’ve already enjoyed the RPG Oceanhorn 2 for several hours. My second favorite so far is Sayonara Wild Hearts, and I’m looking forward to trying out Frogger in Toy Town next.

These are very good games. But if all you like is Halo, Madden and Grand Theft Auto, this might not be the service for you.  Games are designed to be playable on an iPhone display with touchscreen controls. This limits what the developers can do, even though these games can also be played on a full-size screen with a regular controller.

Apple Arcade is more than just iPhone

Everything on Apple Arcade is playable on iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV, with a player’s game state jumping from device to device as they switch. I can confirm this: I’ve been switching back and forth between an iPhone and iPad.

Apple Arcade requires iOS 13, iPadOS 13, or macOS Catalina. iPhone users can upgrade now. However, iPad users have to wait until Sept. 24, and Mac users won’t get their full upgrade until October. Until then, the only option is installing a beta version of these operating systems.

This gaming service has its own tab on the App Store, and installing the software is as simple as any other app.  Just so there’s not any confusion, games download to devices; they’re not streamed over the internet like Google’s upcoming Stadia service.

Using a full-size controller and screen

The newest iOS and iPadOS versions support one model of Xbox controller, as well as the PlayStation 4 DualShock 4 controller. These make playing many significantly easier. Connect either one via Bluetooth and you’re good to go.

For big-screen action, I’ve been using a Lightning Digital AV Adapter to connect my iPhone to my TV. My iPad Pro can connect to the same TV with a multiport adapter.

The games I’ve tried so far look and play great on a full-size TV screen with a PS4 controller. It’s really no different from using a console.

Surprisingly inexpensive

Apple Arcade is free for the first month, and a subscription is $4.99 a month for individuals or entire families. That low price is an important part of making this service attractive. If it was 3X that much, this review would have a different tone.

After paying the monthly fee, players aren’t be faced with in-app purchases, additional fees or in-game advertising. This is a real benefit — it’s nice to not have the best weapons, vehicles, etc. available only to people willing to pump money into a game.

Apple’s gaming service is free to try, so go check it out for yourself. You really have nothing to lose, and you could easily find this is a must-have subscription.