With Google having just announced Stadia, Microsoft working on streaming technology, and even Walmart getting in on the action, the buzz around the mobile gaming and tech world is that tonight at its keynote, Apple is going to reveal its own attempt to make subscription-based gaming actually work.
It's been a pretty bumpy ride for game streaming services over the last few years, thanks in part to the still-pretty-garbage nature of so much of the planet's internet, as well as problems with latency and lag. That does beg the question then, what can Apple bring to the table that no one else has?
Well, that question sort of answers itself, because reports from The Verge suggest that this isn't going to be a streaming service in the strictest sense of the word. It's likely, instead, to be more akin to PS Plus or Games With Gold - starting off as a platform-specific service where subscribers get access to free games every month.
It has big potentialThere's so much potential for this to be a real game changer, if you'll excuse the pun, but there are plenty of pitfalls for the big A to avoid as well. One thing's for sure though, there's a massive library of games waiting to be added - there are well over a million on the App Store now.
It's also pretty clear that this isn't going to be a platform like the ill-fated OnLive. That came as a small console, an app, or a program you could install on your computer, and it was meant to deliver PC-fast games directly over the internet. It's unlikely that Apple is going to do something similar - anyone who's tried to update their iPhone or iPad as soon as the newest version of iOS comes out is going to be pretty pleased to hear that - because it already has a massive library of games to play around with.
Console games in the palm of your hand?Rather than trying to get console games into the palm of your hand, Apple appears to be taking a much smarter path - trying to get as many awesome mobile games into the palm of your hand as it can. That's a really important difference to note - this isn't some extra store or service, but rather an addition built in to what the App Store already has to offer.
That route also offers plenty of other options - subscriber only deals, early access, and exclusive content - but it does it safely within the framework of what Apple has already built. It also means that there's a possibility of older premium games getting a new lease of life, which is definitely something we're all about here at Pocket Gamer.
And that brings up another important point - the games on the service are likely to be premium, with devs receiving profit for time played rather than a cut of the game's price. It'll certainly be interesting to see what sort of money devs could make out of the service, because that's going to be a big part of its success. One of the problems with the likes of PS Plus is that the games on offer aren't always that interesting. While Plus and Gold deliver other services that make up for that, it's hard to see a similar scheme working on the App Store.
In other words, Apple is going to have to load the service with plenty of games - and plenty of new games - in order to make it a viable prospect for consumers. If it manages to do that, though, this could well be the start of a really exciting new era of mobile gaming.
And hopefully we'll find out about it all tonight.