Apple Arcade Has Finally Launched. What Does It Mean for Publishers? 

After months of waiting, it’s finally here: Apple has officially launched their Apple Arcade mobile gaming platform. Apple Arcade is a first of its kind mobile gaming platform, offering users access to a wide variety of high quality games for a flat monthly subscription rate. But what does it mean for publishers? 

What Is Apple Arcade? 

The focus of Apple Arcade is clear. The subscription service aims to offer users a curated selection of mobile games across a range of genres, all without the pesky mobile ads or restricting game design that turn some gamers away from the mobile gaming experience. As the mobile gaming industry has developed over the past decade, the freemium model has emerged as the dominant means of gaming app monetization. 

What started as the occasional banner ad has turned into an array of offer walls, video ads, and prompts for users to purchase in-game currency in order to access premium features. The freemium gaming model has had an obvious impact on user experience. But just as importantly, it’s become a major consideration for publishers when it comes to game design. Publishers know in advance that they have to incorporate the freemium model into their game economy, and that results in certain design and development choices. 

On the flip side, publishers who develop games that will be included as part of Apple Arcade will have the opportunity to focus purely on user experience. Gone is the need to serve up offer walls and ads, or to attempt to cajole users into making in-game purchases. Instead, developers can make decisions about game design based entirely on considerations connected to user experience. By some estimates, Apple Arcade is set to reshape the world of mobile gaming. 

But in what ways? And what will this mean for developers whose apps aren’t included in Apple Arcade? 

The Number of Gamers May Grow 

Apple Arcade may lead to an increase in the number of gamers overall, as well as the number of gamers who visit the Apple App Store. Mobile users who have never played a mobile game may be tempted by Apple’s low monthly subscription price of $4.99. After all, full access to more than a hundred high quality, ad-free games for just five dollars per month is a tough deal to beat. Once users have seen the sheer variety and depth available in the mobile gaming world, they may branch out into other games outside of the Apple Arcade ecosystem. That will be a good thing for freemium publishers as new gamers brought in by Apple’s marketing clout expand to other titles. 

Creative Freedom for Developers 

As mentioned above, Apple Arcade may give developers the freedom to develop new, exciting games without the need to focus on a freemium gaming model. But beyond this, Apple Arcade gives developers the opportunity to take risks. Apple has invested more than $500 million in its catalogue of games. With millions of dollars going to a developer to invest in game design and development, there’s considerably less pressure to churn out a game that will immediately generate a solid return in terms of ARPDAU via ads, offerwalls, microtransactions, and so on. 

Freemium Game User Preferences Could Shift 

Given the above points, Apple Arcade sounds like a positive thing for developers. Unfortunately, though, it’s not quite so simple. While it may be true that Apple Arcade could bring more users into the gaming world, and it may provide a handful of developers with greater creative freedom and millions of dollars in funding, the reality could look quite different for the vast majority of publishers out there. For those publishers who aren’t fortunate enough to be included as part of the Apple Arcade platform, there’s one big lurking concern: will user preferences shift? That is, will users continue to put up with freemium ads and in-app currency systems, given the ad-free Apple Arcade gaming experience? 

An Ad-Free Gaming Experience Will Become More Important It seems likely by our estimates that, if successful, Apple Arcade (along with its competitor Google Play Pass) will result in users growing accustomed to high quality, ad-free games. And as this happens, users will have less patience than ever for ad heavy games or freemium games which require users to pay out of pocket for premium in-game features. This should be a major concern for publishers. After all, without ads and in-app currency, how will publishers monetize their freemium apps? 

Rewarded Surveys: The Key to Monetization in the Era of Apple Arcade 

Fortunately, there’s one freemium monetization strategy that avoids the use of in-game ads while still generating revenue for publishers -- all while increasing user retention and engagement. We’re talking about rewarded surveys. Rewarded surveys are a powerful opt-in monetization solution for publishers. Rather than bombarding users with ads, developers can build deep, complex gaming worlds around a premium model without the focus on microtransaction loops. Users have the option to complete surveys in exchange for in-game currency, resulting in significant payouts for publishers. In fact, when done right, surveys are capable of funding a premium gaming experience within a freemium gaming model. Here at 

TheoremReach, we make it easy for publishers to incorporate rewarded surveys into their existing monetization strategy. The results speak for themselves: in one case study, rewarded surveys led to a 12% increase in ARPDAU along with a staggering 3,000% increase in user lifetime value amongst rewarded survey takers. In the era of Apple Arcade, publishers will need to consider new and novel approaches to monetization -- and rewarded surveys are an excellent option.

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Apple Arcade: What It Means for Publishers and App Monetization
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