IF YOU FOUND yourself looking enviously over at your iPhone-owning friends and their new games-on-tap service Apple Arcade, then we have good news: your phone is about to get pretty much the same thing. Unless you're one of those refuseniks still holding onto a Windows Phone, in which case the outlook is as barren as ever.
Google has revealed Play Pass: a $4.99 monthly subscription that gives you apps on tap. Like Apple Arcade it'll cut out ads, unlock all paid features and be shareable between family members. Unlike Apple Arcade it won't just include games, and will have a lot more content: over 350 apps at launch, albeit without any exclusives.
It's coming to the US this week with other countries following soon, and while the price matches Apple Arcade at $4.99 per month, Google is planning on letting people pay for the first year at just $1.99 per month.
While there aren't any exclusives, there are a few heavy hitters as you can see in the video above: Stardew Valley, Limbo, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Terraria, Reigns: Game of Thrones and Monument Valley 2 to name just a few.
The idea is that app creators will be paid a share of the subscription revenue paid, and here Google is slightly less opaque than Apple on how it's calculated, although it's still as clear as particularly viscous mud.
"Developers earn a royalty that incorporates time subscribers spend in their app and captures how users value all types of content (from weather apps to epic endless runners)," Google writes in its developer guidelines. "We're continuously refining the model to make sure it fairly rewards titles that bring the highest user value."
While plenty of developers have signed up, presumably reasoning that a little money is better than no money at all, it's fair to say there's a huge degree of scepticism about the model in the games community. IGN has rounded up a whole bunch of dev grumbling, but the main worry is that one damaging form of monetisation could be replaced with another. So yes, the end of predatory microtransactions is good, but a bold new dawn of games that keep you checking in and playing by any means possible to beat an algorithm isn't necessarily better.
"If engagement becomes money, then grinding, addictive loops, and infinite gameplay becomes the best way to earn money," Vlambeer co-founder Rami Ismail told the site. No More Robots publisher Mike Rose was even more pessimistic, predicting a future where we're "drowned in a sea of Fortnites and pachinko machines".
What a way to go. µ
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