At this point most of the agenda for Apple’s media event being held later today is pretty well known. We’re expecting to see Apple unveil its long-awaited video streaming service, a premium news and magazine service, and very likely announce its new partnership with Goldman Sachs for an Apple Pay branded credit card. Although it may not get much, if any, stage time, we’ll undoubtedly also see iOS 12.2 released today, if only due to its need to support Apple’s new services — news in particular.
However, Apple could still have another “One More Thing” style surprise up its sleeve for the services-focused event — a fourth tentpole in the form of a gaming subscription service. Reports earlier this year confirmed that Apple has been working on a “Netflix for games”, and a report from Bloomberg confirms that the efforts are still ongoing, with Apple discussing terms with potential partners to build a service that will focus on bundling iPhone and iPad games together from different developers that could be accessed for a single monthly fee, rather than one-time purchases or in-app purchases.
Apple would reportedly use a revenue sharing model similar to what it’s proposed for its news service, taking the monthly fees and dividing them up between developers based on how much time users spend playing their games. Apple’s debut of Screen Time in iOS 12 last year has also undoubtedly helped to lay the groundwork for this kind of time tracking.
The subscription would focus on popular paid titles, notably excluding “freemium” games — those that are free to download, but rely on in-app purchases to make money. Presumably, Apple would prefer to exclude games that use any in-app purchases, as this would tarnish the appeal of a flat-rate monthly subscription.
While it’s hard to say for certain what types of games would be included, as John Gruber notes at Daring Fireball, it’s extremely unlikely that Apple will ever be able to get big players like EA into the fold as they’re too in love with their own “casino-style pay-to-win in-app purchase schemes.” However, there’s a very strong opportunity here for Apple to attract independent “boutique” developers — many of whom make some great and very unique games exclusively for the iPhone and iPad — who also probably struggle to make the kind of money that many of their apps deserve.
If Apple’s going to spend billions on exclusive TV and movie content, why not spend money on exclusive games as well? Games are way better suited to the iPhone, and the iPhone is Apple’s strongest and most popular platformJohn Gruber, Daring Fireball
In fact, Gruber notes that Apple could go a step further and partner with indie developers to create exclusive titles for an Apple gaming subscription service, in much the same way that the company has been doing with programming for its new video service. These would be games that are not sold anywhere else on the App Store, but only available through Apple’s gaming subscription service, for a fixed monthly fee.
While Bloomberg adds that Apple could discuss the service as early as today, compared to Apple’s other projects, we’ve heard very little about a new gaming subscription service. This suggests that either Apple has played this one very close to the vest — which is not implausible considering the close relationship Apple enjoys with many developers — or any announcements today would be more of a teaser. Alternatively, Apple could be saving this announcement to unveil to developers first at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June.