Apple's gaming service lands another Japanese all-star
Apple surprise-announced today that one of Japan’s most revered game developers, Yu Suzuki, is making his next game for the tech giant’s mobile gaming subscription service, Apple Arcade.
Why it matters: Apple is an enigmatic but major player in gaming, with resources to do seemingly whatever it wants and tap some all-star talent in the process.
- Apple doesn’t make games or dedicated gaming hardware and doesn’t report its gaming revenue.
- The Wall Street Journal estimates that in 2019, Apple generated $8.5 billion from games in its app store, at least $2 billion more than Sony, Activision, Nintendo and Microsoft earned in that same time period.
Details: The game from Suzuki and his team is called Air Twister and features a princess-warrior who flies through fantastical environments to zap airborne enemies.
- It’s an arcade-style throwback to Suzuki’s earliest works, particularly the mid-'80s shoot-em-up Space Harrier.
- It is credited as coming from YS-Net, Suzuki’s independent development company.
Suzuki is an industry pioneer and Hall of Famer. From the mid-1980s on, he oversaw the development of dozens of acclaimed games, including After Burner, Virtua Fighter and Shenmue, all for iconic Japanese publisher Sega during its rivalry with Nintendo.
- He left his full-time role at Sega in 2011 and raised over $6 million over Kickstarter to release 2019’s Shenmue III, but he had not revealed a new project since then.
What they’re saying: “When I went to the Apple headquarters, we had a talk — and we actually had a really good talk about what if I was to do a really straight-forward game you want to play over and over again, like old-school arcades,” Suzuki told Axios through an interpreter during a video call today.
- He declined to elaborate on whether he set up the meeting or if Apple approached him.
- But Apple's openness to do business was clear. Another developer on the call, who was showcasing an Apple Arcade-exclusive sequel to the long-running Cooking Mama series, told Axios that the project started with the plan to make something for the subscription service, with the game idea following.
Between the lines: Apple keeps quiet about how it builds its game business, but it’s clearly finding a way to tie its Arcade service to some game creators and brands who have name recognition with hardcore console players.
- One of Apple Arcade’s most acclaimed releases, 2021's Fantasian, was made by a team led by Final Fantasy architect Hironobu Sakaguchi.
- Last September, Apple Arcade launched a game from Konami’s classic but recently neglected Castlevania franchise.
Yes, but we can only guess how well this is working for Apple.
- The company doesn't share Apple Arcade subscription stats.
What’s next: Air Twister is set for release on June 24.
- And even before that, another classic Japanese series is en route: A new Frogger will be released on Arcade later this week.
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