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A couple of weeks ago Apple sent out press invites for an unexpected special event to be held on Dec. 2 in New York City. While the timing of the event was a bit of a surprise — Apple almost never holds any media events in December — it seemed fairly clear that it was going to be focused not on new products, but rather to honour its “favourite apps and games of 2019.”
The invite of the event was titled “Loved by millions, created by the best” and featured a golden App Store icon on the cover, making it clear that this was an app-focused event, and it seemed likely that it would coincide with Apple’s regular December announcement of its “Best of the Year” lists.
It turns out that the event held yesterday was somewhat more subtle than Apple’s usual events, taking a form closer to the private press briefings that Apple has held in New York City in the past for its new products such as the iMac Pro. In fact, it was held in the same dedicated space that Apple uses to brief members of the press on new products — most recently its AirPods Pro — but in this case Apple was using the event to give App Store developers an opportunity to speak to the press and showcase their apps.
According to 9to5Mac, an envelope was also handed out to to the press teasing, “And the winners are…” which suggests that the press got an early lead on Apple’s announcement of its top selections for 2019 so that they’d have stories ready to go when Apple unveiled its picks which it did not long afterward.
Top Games of 2019
Not surprisingly, Apple expanded its editorial picks this year to also include an “Apple Arcade Game of the Year” which was taken by Sayonara Wild Hearts by Simogo, an app that was also heavily featured in Apple’s debut of its subscription gaming service.
Other entries in the Best Games of 2019 category included Sky: Children of the Light (free) by thatgamecompany, as the iPhone Game fo the Year, and Hyper Light Drifter ($4.99) by Abylight for the iPad Game of the Year. Apple also gave the nod to the artistic puzzle platformer GRIS ($4.99) for the Best Mac Game of the year, and Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap ($7.99) by DotEmu for the top Apple TV game.
Apple also highlighted the “Game Trend of 2019” as a move toward more games from “world-renowned brands” that were once thought impossible on mobile, mentioning titles such as Mario Kart Tour, Dr. Mario World, Minecraft Earth, Pokémon Masters, Assassin’s Creed Rebellion, The Elder Scrolls: Blades, and Call of Duty: Mobile as examples of original releases that “breathed new life into the most beloved franchises in gaming history.”
Top Apps of 2019
Apple also shared picks for its top four apps of 2019 for iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV.
The AI-powered Spectre Camera ($2.99) by Lux Optics took top spot in the iPhone category for its ability to “let anyone take stunning long-exposure photos.” On the iPad, the drawing and sketching app Flow by Moleskine (free) was hailed as the most realistic pen-and-tablet experience.
Affinity Publisher ($49.99) got the nod in the Mac category for “making pro-level design accessible to everyone,” particularly with developer Serif Labs’ choice to eschew the subscription model that’s being adopted more and more in the creative applications industry and instead produce a solid yet affordable app.
The Apple TV app of the year was The Explorers ($4.99), a more unique entry that is designed to let users simply view a “comprehensive visual inventory of the natural world” through photos and videos shared by explorers, scientists, and artists.
Apple also noted that the “App Trend of 2019” was a move toward more creative visual storytelling, highlighting apps like Anchor, Canva: Stories & Video Maker, Unfold, Spark Camera, Over, and Wattpad, all of which are designed to let anyone express themselves in a variety of different mediums.
Most Downloaded Apps and Games
Apple also announced its charges for the most downloaded apps and most downloaded games, both of which offered fewer surprises. The top free charts continue to be dominated by apps like Netflix, YouTube, Facebook Messenger, Google Chrome, Spotify, Amazon Prime Video, and Facebook. Top paid apps include Procreate, Notability, GoodNotes, Duet Display, Affinity Designer, Affinity Photo, and the Toca Life educational apps. Most popular games include titles like Wordscapes, Roblox, Minecraft, and Fortnite, along with a slew of other “freemium” titles.