Play a few minutes of Sayonara Wild Hearts, and you will realise how a simple game can be infectiously addictive. Developed by the Swedish studio Simogo, Sayonara Wild Hearts has won the Apple Arcade game of the year at a recent event held in New York City where the company announced its annual “best of” list.
The fact that Apple acknowledges an indie title as the Apple Arcade game of the year tells a lot about Apple’s vision for a mobile gaming market where both big and small developers can thrive together. And this will happen through the App Store, a place where users have access to games with a unique storyline and compelling characters.
Kelsey Hansen from Annapurna Interactive says their goal with Sayonara Wild Hearts was to reach out to as many people possible and this would not be possible without the App Store. Hansen, who showed off a demo of a rhythm action game at the iPhone 11 launch event in September, believes users have opened up to a game like Sayonara Wild Hearts despite its unconventional nature.
“I think people who are non-gamers should also play this kind of stuff, because a lot of people are intimidated by games,” she explains. Hansen wishes the mobile gaming should be taken seriously because there are a lot of beautiful games being made right now.
The iPhone, along with the App Store, has played a significant role in making mobile games accessible for millions of users. Games like Angry Birds or Candy Crush would never have been the success they were, had there been no Apple Store.
Many don’t acknowledge the fact that it was Apple’s Steve Jobs that gave chance to early developers to build games for the App Store. At that time, mobile gaming was predominantly limited to feature phones, games and apps were distributed through network operators. Telecom operators kept a lion share of the revenue, leaving game developers with little to nothing.
With the App Store, Apple brought in standardisation across the gaming mobile market with the business model and distribution channel. The App Store, for a change, allowed developers to publish their games easily with Apple keeping just 30 per cent of revenues.
For David, the art director of Gris, which won Mac game of the year, designing an art game for the Mac was an emotional experience. While games like Call of Duty: Mobile have their own audience, David seems to be thrilled about how this genre of art games is gradually becoming mainstream. Barcelona-based Nomada Studio spent roughly three years building Gris, a platform game where you move a character through a unique and colourful world and solve puzzles.
The mobile gaming market has expanded over the past few years, and Apple wants to become a dominant player. App Annie, a mobile data and market analytics firm, says games are the largest vertical on the iOS app store. The firm estimates that in the first three quarters of 2019 there were 7.5 billion games downloaded on the iOS App Store. This actually represents 30 per cent of all the downloads on the iOS app store during this period.
Apple Arcade will push indie titles
Apple sees huge opportunities in the mobile gaming market and the company’s new subscription gaming service will leverage its base of users with Apple devices. The Cupertino company has sold millions of iPhones, iPads and Macs over the years. Even if a few percent of the total users subscribe to the service, Apple Arcade could be a winner.
The service, which is priced at Rs 99 a month in India, offers Apple users a huge library of games they can be download for free. It could help Apple reach a new set of audience willing to try out indie games. This sets apart the Apple Arcade from the competition, where the focus has been on curating games that have an artistic edge to it.
But a platform like Apple Arcade also tests Apple’s ability to take risks and bet on something that is considered a niche. Developers like Oink Game are willing to tell a different story that may not be liked by those who are obsessed with PUBG, but there is a market for games like Takeshi & Hiroshi. The success of these developers is entirely dependent on how Apple creates a place that could easily become the den of indie games.
If even partially successful, you might even see big gaming studios start making games for the Apple Arcade.
Many hope Apple’s ability to transform the mobile gaming market with the App Store will continue with the Arcade. It’s a new platform where small-time, yet creative, developers can make all kinds of games they believe in, rather than making games for broader audiences that usually dominate the App stores.
It remains to be seen how Apple Arcade grows as a platform in the future, but seeing the current lineup, it is clear that Apple is interested in those games that offer enriching experience, and a great story line.
Disclaimer: The author is in New York at the invite of Apple India