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Apple Arcade: Unlimited Cross-Platform Gaming

Now that four of Apple’s major operating systems — macOS 10.15 Catalina, iOS 13, iPadOS 13 and tvOS 13 — are officially available, it’s time to explore one of the new features available to all of those operating systems. Apple Arcade is the new, $4.99 monthly subscription game service that works on iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Apple TV, and Mac. Today we’ll give you a quick overview of the service, some of the fun and addictive games you can play, and how to get started for free.

Apple Arcade One-Month Free Trial

Apple is fairly confident that once you try a handful of the games that are being created exclusively for Apple Arcade that you’ll want to keep coming back. That’s why they’re giving everyone a one-month free trial of the service.

To sign up for the trial, enter Apple Arcade from any of your Apple devices running the latest version of iOS, iPadOS or macOS. Just launch the App Store, then click on the new Arcade button.

Apple Arcade as it appears in macOS Catalina's App Store
Apple Arcade as it appears in macOS Catalina’s App Store

In macOS Catalina, that button is on the left sidebar of the App Store (see screenshot above). For iOS 13 on an iPhone or iPadOS 13 on an iPad, the button looks like a joystick. In the screenshot below, it’s the button in blue.

The Apple Arcade button (in blue) on an iPhone running iOS 13
The Apple Arcade button (in blue) on an iPhone running iOS 13

Have an Apple TV? Once your device in running tvOS 13, you’ll see the Arcade front and center (see image below):

On your TV, you'll see the joystick button for Apple Arcade in the middle of the big screen
On your TV, you’ll see the joystick button for Apple Arcade in the middle of the big screen

How do you sign up for the free trial? Apple’s going to entice you with a big “Try It Free” button. Click or tap on it, and you’ll see a screen similar to the one show below. Tap the big Confirm button, sign into your Apple ID if requested, and then you’re ready to go.

Click or Tap confirm to begin your one-month free trial of Apple Arcade
Click or Tap confirm to begin your one-month free trial of Apple Arcade

Time To Play

Now it’s time to play. At launch, there are 28 games you can launch and play on any of your devices. That number is certain to grow as developers realize the benefits of having a title exclusive to Apple’s gaming platform, and Apple says that new titles are coming each month.

As you would expect of a writer, I am a fan of word games. My first choice was to try Word Laces, a word puzzle game in which you tie letters and fragments of words together to make words that describe a picture. There’s a daily challenge as well as a progressively harder set of levels to work through.

A typical screen from Word Laces, an Apple Arcade game
A typical screen from Word Laces, an Apple Arcade game

All of the games are made to fit the particular platform they’re on, and they all look good on any platform. You can jump between platforms; I found it fun that I could start a game on my Mac, move to my iPhone, play a few rounds on Apple TV, then finish the day on the iPad Pro. This isn’t perfect at this early date, though — while playing this word game, I found that it had not passed along the fact that I had already completed the daily challenge. However, it DID keep the level information between platforms.

Build your own world in Outlanders
Build your own world in Outlanders

I found Outlanders to be a fun world-building game. It starts with a few inhabitants and lets you build homes and buildings, gather food, and otherwise build a thriving community. It’s a beautiful game with a relaxing ambient soundtrack.

While these two games are rather relaxing, you might seek something a bit more energetic! Having never been a skater, I found SkateCity to be a lot more difficult than I expected. In this game, you are a skateboarder going through various challenges in a number of worldwide cities. This is one game where a gamepad is an absolute must when playing on a Mac, and it’s a LOT easier on an iPhone.

All of the games use Apple’s Game Center to store your progress under your gamer name, and there are even several multiplayer games. Personally, I think most of the games are a bit tame for “real” gamers, but for the mass market – the people Apple would love to have paying $4.99 a month for the rest of their lives – they’re fun, colorful and relaxing.

If you haven’t done so already, sign up for your free month trial and see what games grab your interest. At the end of the month, you can always cancel the subscription and pay nothing.

Steve Sande
the authorSteve Sande
Contributing Author
Steve has been writing about Apple products since 1986, starting on a bulletin board system, creating the first of his many Apple-related websites in 1994, joining the staff of The Unofficial Apple Weblog in 2008, and founding Apple World Today in 2015. He’s semi-retired, loves to camp and take photos, and is an FAA-licensed drone pilot.
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