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“The Perfect Home” – Game Developer Snowman on Apple Arcade, Creative Freedom, and Accessibility

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Apple Arcade

Apple Arcade aims to change the way mobile games are played. For the longest time, mobile gaming has had a certain stigma surrounding it: so many titles are designed to do nothing less than drain players’ wallets with excessive microtransactions at every corner. Apple Arcade offers a completely different model: for $5 per month, players gain unlimited access to a wide library of games, all without any in-app purchases to speak of.

To learn more about developing for such a unique service, we spoke with two team members of Snowman, the studio behind hits like Alto’s Adventure. After their success on traditional mobile platforms, Snowman is going all-in on Apple Arcade, publishing two brand-new titles available on the service from day one: Skate City, an addictive skate sim all about pulling off the flashiest tricks and chasing the highest scores, and Where Cards Fall, a narrative-focused puzzle game concerned with the struggles of growing up.

It might seem like a significant risk to invest so heavily in a brand-new service like Apple Arcade. Yet for Snowman, it was only a natural opportunity for growth. “We’ve always been an Apple-first developer, so the process hasn’t been too out of the ordinary for us,” says Ryan Cash, founder, and creative director at Snowman. “With Where Cards Fall, we had always intended to launch on all of Apple’s platforms one day one, so we were already planning for this.”

From early on, Snowman has seen Apple Arcade has been the ideal place for Skate City and Where Cards Fall to shine. “We always intended both games to be premium experiences, so once we got the opportunity to consider Apple Arcade it was really amazing,” says Andrew Schimmel, Snowman’s lead producer. “It’s the perfect home to present new experiences to such a wide variety of players.”

Where Cards Fall presents the greatest puzzle of all: growing up

Easy access to so many different types of games isn’t Apple Arcade’s only defining feature. It also allows games to be played across mobile devices, Macs, and Apple TVs, a flexibility that does offer some issues for making games that control equally well across multiple platforms. Cash acknowledges that “In the case of Skate City, we had originally designed the game for touch devices, so it was a bit more work to design a control scheme that would feel at home on Apple TV and Mac,” but in the end, it was “nothing we weren’t used to as a studio.”

Skate City and Where Cards Fall are both exclusive to Apple Arcade, but that’s largely where their similarities end. They’re two completely different types of games: Skate City’s simple and addictive nature lends itself to short bursts of gameplay, while Where Cards Fall fosters a more reflective response thanks to its slow pace and focus upon storytelling. Despite these differences, however, Cash finds that both games are equally at home on Apple’s new platform.

“We think that both games offer very different experiences to players,” Cash says, “but both encapsulate what Apple is shooting for with Apple Arcade: Games that redefine games.”

Where Cards Fall might be nearly the exact opposite of Skate City, but it fits right in with Apple Arcade

Apple Arcade’s accessible structure encourages players to branch out and attempt new genres that they might not have purchased otherwise. With unlimited access to every game on the platform, there’s no reason for players not to try out different styles of games than they’re used to. In Snowman’s view, this was one of the platform’s greatest advantages.

“As a studio, we always want to challenge ourselves in new ways and to create experiences that more people can try out that might not be familiar with what they have to offer,” Schimmel says. “Having the opportunity to present a different take on a sports game to someone who’s played a lot of puzzle games or vice versa is really cool.”

Apple Arcade may be accessible, but it has also been extensively curated. Apple has been heavily involved in the lineup of games in its Arcade, and for some, this involvement might raise concerns about developers’ creative freedom. Can Apple impose any strict restrictions upon content before including games in its service?

However, Snowman has found these fears to be groundless. “Apple was very supportive of our vision,” Schimmel says, “and we were able to realize these games as we always intended them to be played. We feel really grateful to be in this position.”

Skate City is all about capturing the most stylish tricks

“We’ve had very clear visions for both games for a very long time,” Cash adds, “so it was just a matter of finishing these games and making sure they live up to the level of quality someone can expect from a Snowman game.”

Apple Arcade finds itself in a unique position in the games industry at the moment. With so many companies diving into the world of subscription services and streaming platforms, Apple has always had its work cut out for it to stand out from the crowd. Apple Arcade nonetheless shows incredible promise for players and developers alike, and Snowman remains firm in supporting the platform.

“We’re extremely excited about Apple Arcade, as developers, publishers and players ourselves,” Cash says. “We can’t wait to see what other teams come up with and how the world reacts to this unique service.”

Campbell's a writer and English student at the University of Texas at Austin. An unabashed Nintendo nerd, the only thing that can tear him away from his Switch is the thought of all the dusty old books in the libraries on campus.

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