Apple announced that Vision Pro-native versions of two popular iOS games are coming to Apple Arcade next month, Crossy Road Castle and Solitaire Stories, both of which put an immersive spin on inherently flatscreen gameplay.

Coming to Vision Pro on April 25th, Crossy Road Castle and Solitaire Stories seem to highlight how the company is directly supporting development of games on its first XR headset. First, a look at the games for the uninitiated:

Crossy Road Castle, created by Hipster Whale, tasks players with platforming their way through an endlessly spinning tower. Collect Everything. Unlock Crossy Chicken and friends. Dress up in silly hats.

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Launched in 2020, the co-op game originally targeted iPad, iPhone, and Apple TV, although the Vision Pro version is doing something a bit different. It still allows for co-op across those devices in addition to Vision Pro soon, but you’ll notice as you smash your way through levels, that coins and blocks fly out of the game’s window and onto the floor. The UI floats above makes full use of the free real estate too. Input is also entirely hand-tracking based.

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Like Resolution Game’s Vision Pro-exclusive Game Box (2024), Solitaire Stories from Red Games on the other hand virtualizes solitaire by adding a new measure of three dimensions, putting the tabletop classic either into both an old timey-looking radio set sitting on your coffee table, or floating in the air in full 3D. Like Crossy Road Castle, Solitaire Stories is also a flatscreen native, supporting standard iOS devices and Apple TV when it launched on Apple Arcade in 2021.

View post on imgur.com

At least from a modern VR gamer’s perspective, the company appears to be promoting game development through its third-party app creators in a distinctly ‘backwards‘ fashion. In contrast, Meta and Pico have typically encouraged studios to create or port games with an emphasis on immersive environments, and, in the case of mixed reality, gameplay that dynamically uses your room.

Notably, a majority of games Apple promotes with its Apple Arcade game subscription service aren’t exclusive to Vision Pro, with the two sole Vision Pro-only titles marked in bold below:

Everything else, like Crossy Road Castle and Solitaire Stories, started with 2D gameplay first, and then were later retrofitted to feel more at home in mixed reality. Granted, without controllers, which has stymied veteran VR developers from bringing their games to Vision Pro, it isn’t so much a ‘backwards’ move for Apple, but likely a different path of convergence.

Like with Samsung Gear VR, which was controlled by both a head-mounted touch pad and optional un-tracked touchpad remote, by default developers will need to engage users with the lowest of the low-hanging fruit first, which in both cases included cheap and cheerful titles that played squarely within the platform’s limitations. Still, it’s early days for Apple’s $3,500 headset, which should hopefully evolve the closer we get to its rumored second iteration.

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Whether Apple ever plans to support more ambitious immersive projects with Apple Arcade remains to be seen. Even with support for more pro-focused controllers like the recently patented stylus-style XR controller, the company may continue to sideline gaming until it’s too big to ignore. Or possibly later.

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • Christian Schildwaechter

    The selection of games is bizarrely non-3D. Apple mobile GPUs have class leading 3D performance, the iPhone 15 Pro runz full versions of RE8, AC Mirage and Death Stranding. So Apple going for Crossy Road Castle that reduces the original Crossy Road 2.5D even further to 2D, or Solitaire (killing productivity since Windows 3.0), is certainly not due to technical limitations.

    Some of decade old franchises add 3D characters on AVP, like Bloons TD or Cut the Rope, but still move them on a 2D plane. The only non-immersive mode games on the list above that are actually 3D are What the Golf and LEGO Builder’s Journey, demonstrating placing the game inside your living space, similar to Microsoft using Minecraft to show off Hololens. Apple may be going for very familiar franchises and sticking to familiar interface metaphors to ease users in, but the board game simulation Game Room using a remote cursor instead of directly grabbing a chess piece is really lame.

    And there are much better examples outside of Apple Arcade, like the Vision Pro version of Blackbox, placing bubbles in your room and using rich hand gestures to interact, praised by many as making them realize how powerful MR/AR could actually become. Limiting Apple Arcade games is almost like them going out of their way to show that AVP is not a VR HMD. What prehistoric 2D game could they unearth next? Proton Pulse for AVP already covers Breakout, Angry Birds proper VR version on Quest is probably too VR for Apple. So Minesweeper?

    • philingreat

      The AVP only has been out since less than 2 months. Most devs only now have access to the device. Now it takes time to develop a game with the new interaction and taking advantage of the spatial computing capabilities of the device. I am pretty sure we will see a lot of interesting games coming in the future.

      • Christian Schildwaechter

        I’m sure we’ll see a lot more AVP games in the future. But the games discussed in the article aren’t random games. These are part of the Apple Arcade subscription with only about 200 hand selected games, and their developers no doubt got privileged access to AVP developer resources. So if these are the first Apple Arcade games that were enhanced for AVP, that’s not an artifact of the HMD only being out for two month. These were deliberately picked by Apple for AVP, which makes this so bizarre.

        The most likely reason is Apple pushing developers to extend existing iOS games instead of creating new titles, making the the first AVP Apple Arcade games poster children for how even games that nobody would associate with VR can be made more interesting on AVP. This of course doesn’t even scratch the surface of the AVP’s technical potential. The strategy makes kind of sense, considering that it will take years for AVP unit numbers to even reach one million, not exactly a large user base that could pay for exclusive/expensive titles.

  • ViRGiN

    I bet the adoption rate is actually higher than on SteamVR.

  • Synth Riders was a good play to capitalize Apple Vision Pro users. I already own 3 copies of the game on each of the other platforms and don’t regret buying so many copies.

  • Yeah, Apple is focusing on 2D content first, and creators are investigating how to use the 3rd dimension that they now have. So the low hanging fruit is some sort of eye candy, as you see in the videos above. But we all know that this is not what AR gaming should look like, we need games that are AR-native