Week in Review: Apple games the system

Hey all. This is Week-in-Review, where I give a heavy amount of analysis and/or rambling thoughts on one story while scouring the rest of the hundreds of stories that emerged on TechCrunch this week to surface my favorites for your reading pleasure.

Last week, I talked about shifting Facebook user habits and their play to take down Tinder.

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The big story

This week, Apple launched some new products, but really the only big surprises were how aggressively the company is moving with pricing their subscription products. The Apple TV+ product and Apple Arcade gaming subscriptions will both be launching this fall for $4.99.

The prices were aggressive. Given the costs of Apple News+ and Apple Music, most people might have expected the services to strike $9.99. While TV+ is striking a low price to take on entrenched streaming competitors, the pricing of Apple Arcade is particularly interesting because Apple is trying to boldly shift how games are priced.

Subscribers get access to 100+ games on Arcade, with new games added monthly. The games are exclusives and they are ad-free and micro-transaction free. In a lot of ways, this subscription is seeking to undo many of the mobile gaming monetization trends it helped create, but it seems unlikely they can put Pandora back in the box.

Getting gamers on a discovery platform like this could be great for indie devs looking for eyeballs, but that’s only if the economics work out, something that depends on Apple throwing an awful lot of money at the problem.

While Apple News+ divvied up $9.99 among Apple and hundreds of publishers, it was an easier sell because publishers saw it as an entirely new class of customers for digital products that they were already creating and monetizing elsewhere. For developers bringing their titles to Arcade exclusively, that $4.99 is the whole pie for all parties involved, and even if Apple is fully or partially funding the titles, the whole model seems predicated on Apple spending through the process of acquiring customers.

While original content TV-streaming and music-streaming are avenues that Apple has had to ride up against a clear competitor, there isn’t a particularly successful mobile gaming subscription product out there. Apple has always claimed to skate to where the puck is going with its hardware products, but they have been late on services for the most part, with Apple Arcade it could be different, but turning back the clock won’t be easy.

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On to the rest of the week’s news.

(Photo by Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Trends of the week

Here are a few big news items from big companies, with green links to all the sweet, sweet added context:

  • Alibaba’s Jack Ma officially retires
    To Americans, Jack Ma may just be another Chinese tech billionaire, but the Alibaba founder is a larger-than-life entrepreneur, which makes his retirement a huge development. The retirement is no shock, as Ma had long teased his departure from the Chinese online retail giant. Read more here.
  • Uber lays off hundreds
    Uber is having an interesting public debut, but the ridesharing giant is opting to consolidate a bit as it aims to shrink its losses. The company announced this week it is laying off 435 employees. Read more here.
  • New Apple hardware
    Apple made some services announcements this week, but they also dropped some hardware updates. What we saw were probably the most iterative iPhone and Watch updates that we’ve ever seen. The always-on display of the Apple Watch will keep you tilting your wrist left often to see the time and the crazy triple-camera module on the iPhone 11 Pro will bring some new functionality to the camera. Read more here.

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

GAFA Gaffes

How did the top tech companies screw up this week? This clearly needs its own section, in order of badness:

  1. America takes aim at Google:
    [49 states and the District of Columbia are pushing an antitrust investigation against Google]
  2. Apple makes “improvements” to anti-competitive App Store algorithms:
    [Apple tweaks its App Store algorithm as antitrust investigations loom]

Disrupt SF

Our biggest event of the year is right around the corner and we’re bringing in some of the most important figures in the tech industry. Here’s who’s coming to Disrupt SF 2019.

In addition to taking in the great line-up of speakers, you can roam around Startup Alley to catch the more than 1,000 companies showcasing their products and technologies. And of course the Startup Battlefield competition that launched the likes of Dropbox, Cloudflare and Mint will once again be one of the biggest highlights of Disrupt SF.

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