About ten years ago, Sony promised they'd change how we play games. With the launch of the Playstation Vita, they showed us a world in which one could start playing a game at home on your big powerful console, and then you could take it with you in the form of cross-play, where your saves synced via the cloud and you could play the Vita version right where you dropped off. And of course, for games that didn't have a Vita version, there was always the option of streaming your games.
Of course, we know how well that worked out. There were maybe 5 games where you could buy both versions of the game at once, and the majority of the games that supported cross-play required you to buy the same game twice. Streaming is still what everyone's pushing today, but in many places (coughAmericacough) there isn't a good enough connection to stream games with a good experience - especially if it's got twitchy gameplay.
Time has passed and many companies have began to offer a service model for games - subscribe to a program, and you get free access to games. And many of these services have some sort of cross-play component to them, where you get access to multiple platforms, or even with streaming versions, but they all have their downsides.
But it turns out that one company offers a gaming service that actually does offer each of their games in native versions across computers, consoles, and phones, has cross-play support, and doesn't have any of the downsides of streaming, and it's from a company that most people don't associate with gaming - especially when it comes to computer games. I'm speaking, of course, about Apple Arcade.
Sure, it all only works on Apple hardware, and the console part is a bit of a stretch (who actually owns an Apple TV?), but it works remarkably well. And unlike a number of other systems I have tried, it works seamlessly - you can save your game on your mac, launch your game on your iPhone, and instantly be playing your game. And the higher-end games with nice 3D graphics actually do look remarkably better on the big screen.
Of course, the selection of games is much different than any other games service, but I find myself surprised at how many games I legitimately want to play. Sure, there are a lot of 'iPhone' style casual games - right now they just released a bunch of previously released iPhone games cleaned up and stripped of monetization schemes - but I view that as a positive thing - sometimes you just want something simple to pass time with that doesn't need to take space in your brain. But at the same time there are also bigger and more aspiring titles available. There's a new action game from PLATINUMGAMES with an Okami-like artstyle, a brand new RPG from Mistwalker built on top of dioramas, and complex adventure games like Beyond a Steel Sky.
Apple arcade, is, however, missing one notable meta-genre from it's library - Triple-A games. And honestly, I kind of love it for that. The majority of the games companies represented are independent, and that means that many of them are going to be able to offer me new types of gameplay or narratives that you won't get from the big guys. What other service is going to offer experiences like Assemble With Care? And from an ethical point of view, I'd rather reward independent creators who are pushing out these high-quality pieces of work than giant companies who are famous for exploiting their workers.
While Apple Arcade obviously won't be a good choice for everyone since it's limited to Apple hardware, and if you're already in Apple's ecosystem, you probably already know about it (they're surprisingly aggressive at marketing their free trial - which is actually what got me to write this in the first place). I had originally written them off as all casual games, but with the last big release of games it's got some pretty fantastic releases. It's worth trying if you've only got an iPhone, but it's more than worth it if you've got a recent Mac or Apple TV.