Apple Arcade Isn’t the Cross-Platform Dream We Were Promised


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Despite calls from the press and some members of the public for Apple to merge iOS and MacOS, the tech giant continues to plug its fingers in its ears and insist it’s not happening. And you know what? It’s the right approach. But weirdly, Apple is accidentally demonstrating what a disaster this merger would be using one of its own products: Apple Arcade.

You see, Apple Arcade is a showcase for all that’s wrong with taking two very different operating systems and mashing them together into a mixed-up medley where no one wins. Because developers have to make games that work on the tiniest iPhone and the largest iMac, they are forced into compromises that weaken the games on both platforms.

To be clear, there are reams of excellent Apple Arcade games. My beef is more with the way the platform works and its attempt to cater to all possible audiences. If Apple has any sense, it will take its own advice and fix this problem.

The Mac misses out

Apple Arcade games appearing on a MacBook, iPad, and iPhone.

I recently started playing Fantasian on Apple Arcade, a JRPG developed by Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of the Final Fantasy series. With that kind of resumé, I was expecting a lot from his latest work. Instead, I got something that had plenty of great ideas but was held back by Apple Arcade.

Load up Fantasian for the first time, and you quickly see its gimmick: Its world spaces take the form of handcrafted dioramas, with characters and NPCs digitally superimposed. On an iPhone, these look absolutely beautiful, and they are still pretty eye-catching on a Mac — until you look a little closer, whereupon they become a little blurry and low-res. I can only surmise this is due to the developers having to optimize the textures for a smaller screen, leaving Mac users out in the cold.

And then there are the controls. Most Mac games give you a fairly standard set of hotkeys: M for map, J for journal, I for inventory, and so on. Sometimes they vary, but the point is you always have lots of quick shortcuts at your disposal. In Fantasian, you only get two: C opens the menu and S launches a designated shortcut. There are no concessions for gamers decked out with a keyboard and mouse, only the limited options available to iOS players.

When you make…