Comment & Opinion

Why Google Play Pass is orthogonal to Apple Arcade

Different strokes

Why Google Play Pass is orthogonal to Apple Arcade

As human beings our brains are highly tuned to pattern recognition.

If two things are priced, at say $4.99 a month, we will immediately try to compare them.

If those things - in this case subscription game services - are delivered by two companies that compete, even in relatively small areas of their business, our little grey cells will start to fire in uncontrollable ways.

But let's take a step back...

Do you use an Android phone or an iPhone as your primary device?

Granted, like me, some of you may use an Android phone but game on an iPad, but in the real world, the overlap between these two 'rivals' is close to zero.

You either use an iPhone (and always will) or like most of the world, your phone runs some version of Android.

Hence, despite their similarities, Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass cannot be competing products.

Thinking deeper

What's more interesting to consider, however, is what their different approaches say about Apple and Google's view of their user base.

Apple Arcade is about beautiful graphics, new and exclusive content; about games designed without ads or IAPs.

It's the same ultra quality marketing that's made Apple the most loved hardware company in the world.

Google Play Pass, on the other hand, is about simplicity and quantity: over 350 games and apps compared to around 100 for Apple Arcade.

It's not about new and exclusive games. It's about increasing the audience for existing paid content on the Google Play Store .

Yet it's also confusing. With Play Pass, developers can chose to remove their content from the service, in which case the ads and IAPs will be reactivated.

It's a messy, inelegant yet ultimately thoroughly pragmatic attempt to solve the problem that no-one wants to pay for premium content any more.

And that remains the biggest issue for both Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass.

No-one, never on Android but now even iOS' high rollers, cares about paying for premium content anymore, and hence it seems unlikely anyone will shell out for a monthly subscription either.

Let's face it. The real point of these services is that sooner or later they will be reduced to a value ad, free if you buy the latest iPhone or Pixel.

And that's the closest you'll get to competing products.

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.


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