Apple Arcade on Apple TV, MacBook, iPad, and iPhone.
Apple

Apple Arcade is a new gaming subscription service that will eventually provide access to over 100 games for iPhones, iPads, Macs, and Apple TV devices. It costs $4.99 per month for an entire family, and your first month is free.

The service is launching initially on iPhone, with iPad, Mac and Apple TV versions following soon after. Here’s what you need to know about the new service.

What is Apple Arcade?

Apple Arcade is a monthly subscription that costs $4.99, with a free trial month to get you started. The service includes exclusive games only available via Apple Arcade, as well as third party titles that are available for purchase on other platforms. You cannot separately purchase games made available through Apple Arcade on the App Store.

Apple says it will add new games to the service monthly, though like any subscription service you should also expect older games to disappear (and maybe pop up for sale on the App Store instead). There are no adverts, no limitations on play, and you don’t need an internet connection to play games downloaded through Apple Arcade.

The service is not a game streaming service like PlayStation Now or Google Stadia. When you sign up for Arcade, you can download as many games as you can fit on your device and run them natively. It’s more comparable to a service like Netflix.

Is Apple Arcade Good Value?

Whether or not Apple Arcade represents good value depends entirely on your App Store spending habits. If you spend more than about $5 on games per month, then you may be able to justify the $60 per year you’ll be spending on an Arcade subscription. It’s also important to note that none of the games on Apple Arcade will include microtransactions or free-to-play economies. For $5, you get everything with no extra ads or fees.

You can even dip in and out of Apple Arcade when you have time. If you’ve got some long haul flights coming up then $5 seems like a bargain compared to the cost of a full-priced Nintendo Switch game—or anything else you might find in an airport departure lounge.

One area where Apple Arcade represents an excellent value is for users of Family Sharing. A single Apple Arcade subscription at $4.99 per month can be shared between a whole household provided you have set up Family Sharing and purchased a subscription.

What Devices Work With Apple Arcade?

Apple Arcade launched on the iPhone with the release of iOS 13 on September 19, 2019. On September 24, the service will roll out on iPad as part of the iPadOS 13 update, and on the Apple TV via tvOS 13. Apple Arcade will finally arrive on the Mac with the release of macOS Catalina.

Apple Arcade compatible devices
apple.com

One of the big draws of the service is the ability to start a game on one device and pick it up on another without losing your place.

How Do You Get Apple Arcade?

The first thing you’ll need to do before signing up for Apple Arcade is to upgrade your iPhone or iPad to iOS 13 (or iPadOS 13). To do this head to System Preferences > General > Software Update and follow the instructions to update your device. Make sure you have backed up your iPhone before upgrading.

iOS 13 App Store Tab Bar

With iOS 13 installed, launch the App Store and glance at the tab bar at the bottom of the screen. You will see a new tab titled Arcade. Tap on it, and you’ll be invited to sign up for a free trial of Apple Arcade. Once complete you can peruse the games available to you on the Arcade tab of the App Store.

Apple TV users will need to install the tvOS 13 update then launch the App Store and locate the Arcade tab. Mac users will first need to update to macOS Catalina, then launch the Mac App Store and click on the Arcade tab.

Apple Arcade Trial Period

Be aware that your free trial will auto-renew in one month. You can access your subscriptions under Settings > [Your Name] > Subscriptions. Apple Arcade only provides you the option to immediately cancel your free trial, rather than disabling auto-renewal. If you’re only trying and have little intention of buying, make sure you set a reminder to cancel your trial before you are charged.

Can You Play With a Controller?

You can play with a controller, but you don’t need one. All Apple Arcade games are playable via standard touch controls, and many include support for game controllers too. Using a controller is arguably the best way to enjoy many games since they feel more like “full” console releases rather than stripped-down mobile experiences.

You can use existing Made for iPhone (MFi) controllers like the Steelseries Nimbus and the Horipad Ultimate. iOS 13 and tvOS 13 also adds support for non-MFi controllers including Sony’s DualShock 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One controller.

Pairing a DualShock 4 (PS4) Controller

  1. Grab your controller and hold down the central “PS” button and the “Share” button until the light on the touchpad (or back of your controller) starts flashing.
  2. Head to Settings > Bluetooth on your iOS device (or Settings > Remotes and Devices > Bluetooth on an Apple TV) and wait for your controller to appear.
  3. Select your controller to pair it.

Sony DualShock 4

Pairing an Xbox One Controller

  1. Turn on the controller by pressing the Xbox button.
  2. Press and hold the “Connect” button at the top of the controller for three seconds.
  3. Head to Settings > Bluetooth on your iOS device (or Settings > Remotes and Devices > Bluetooth on an Apple TV) and wait for your controller to appear.
  4. Select your controller to pair it.

Xbox One Controller

You can pair your controller with a Mac in the same way if you head to System Preferences > Bluetooth or click on the Bluetooth icon in your Mac’s menu bar.

Can I Clip My iPhone to My Controller?

Using a controller and an iPhone is arguably the best way to enjoy Apple Arcade, but there’s a problem. You’ll have to set your iPhone down on a table or perch awkwardly to see the screen while you hold a separate controller. If only there were an easier way…

Fortunately, there are lots of clips you can get to mount your iPhone on top of your controller. Top of the list is the Nyko Smart Clip for the DualShock 4. According to Nyko, the clip has been discontinued, but there are plenty available for just shy of $15 on Amazon. There are cheaper clips available, but the Nyko has the benefit of not blocking any ports (on the phone or controller).

Nyko Smart Clip for DualShock 4

For Xbox One controllers there’s the cheap-as-chips Dainslef Phone Holder Clamp. It’s got mostly positive reviews for its sub-$10 price point.

What Are the Games Like?

Apple has promised users “100+ games” to enjoy, which appears to be a figure it’s still working towards at launch. At the time of writing, we counted a total of 63 games, of which only four were truly exclusive to Apple Arcade: Where Cards Fall from Snowman, Projection: First Light by Blowfish, The Enchanted World from Noodlecake, and Red Reign from Ninja Kiwi.

The service has enlisted the help of some big-name publishers like Konami, Sega, Capcom, Bandai Namco, Devolver Digital, and Annapurna Interactive. The service provides a good mix of puzzlers, frantic arcade games, 5-minute time-wasters, and meaningful long-form games in a bid to appeal to a wide range of players.

Particularly interesting is Where Cards Fall, an Arcade-exclusive puzzle game wrapped up in a coming of age narrative with a gorgeous isometric art style. Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm is the sequel to the App Store’s best Zelda clone, except now it’s better thanks to proper controller support.

Sneaky Sasquatch is a cute arcade adventure in which you play the role of an elusive bigfoot and steal food, disguise yourself as a human, and play golf. Big Time Sports invokes the spirit of retro sports games so you can prove to your friends that you’re the best at button mashing.

What The Golf finally arrives on iOS via Apple Arcade. Think of it as the antidote to every boring golf game you’ve ever played. LEGO Brawls also debuts on the service as a team brawler in which you must build your own unique minifigure and battle for control of iconic LEGO stages with your friends.

Is Apple Arcade Any Good?

There’s a lot to like about Apple Arcade’s lineup of games. Even though the service hasn’t hit the “100+” number at launch, Apple provides a great variety of high-quality titles that will appeal to a broad range of tastes. This makes the service more enticing as you’re bound to find something you like.

Overall we were impressed by what the service had to offer on day one. There’s a good variety of games, and Apple has taken care to hit most of the mobile gaming beats. You’ll find tower defense, meditative puzzles, and quirky platformers alongside more fleshed out experiences in the form of action adventures, shooters, and narrative-driven roleplaying games.

Some of the games we’ve played so far that we can recommend include:

  • Patterned: A soothing puzzle game that has you matching puzzle pieces with endlessly repeating patterns. It has to be one of the most mindful games on the service so far.
  • Skate City: Probably better without a controller, Skate City is a side-scrolling skating game where you can pull off tricks by flicking either side of the screen. Easy to pick up but devilish to master.
  • Assemble With Care: A narrative-driven puzzle game from the developers of Monument Valley that has you fixing everyday items. Manipulate objects with the touch screen to restore them to working order and advance the story.
  • Neo Cab: Interactive fiction meets survival in this bleak dystopian narrative about one of the last rideshare drivers in a world disrupted by automation.

It’s still hard to place the audience for Apple Arcade. The service is geared towards just about anyone in the Apple ecosystem, not only those who play games on their iPhone. If you already play a lot of games and you’re

The Best Game Subscription So Far?

For $4.99 per month for an entire family, Apple Arcade currently represents one of the cheapest and easiest ways to access a library of games. These games run natively, are offline-friendly, and allow you to switch between devices at will. It’s clear Apple is serious about Arcade both from a technical perspective and in terms of which games are included in the service.

But don’t take our word for it, your first month is free so sign up and check out what all the fuss is about. Just remember to cancel your trial before the renewal period if you don’t want to cough up $4.99.

Tim Brookes Tim Brookes
Tim Brookes is a technology writer with more than a decade of experience. He's invested in the Apple ecosystem, with experience covering Macs, iPhones, and iPads for publications like Zapier and MakeUseOf.
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