A great joy of modern mobile devices is the ability to do multiple things at once. For a lot of people, including me, that means doing [thing] while listening to a podcast. Ever since Apple Arcade launched last month, I’ve wanted to play many of those games while listening to someone explain why Halloween III: Season of the Witch will eventually be seen as a classic, but it’s mostly been impossible because so many of those games explicitly block it and play the game's music instead. I like the music in Grindstone well enough, but 15 hours later, I wanna hear about Silver Shamrock!!!
Fortunately, it looks like that might be changing, at least for some games. As part of an update shrinking Grindstone’s file size and other bugs, it also lifted this odd audio restriction:
It totally works, too. I downloaded the update a few minutes ago and podcasts worked fine.
This annoyance has actually been on my radar for a few weeks now. Did Apple mandate this? Is part of the Apple Arcade experience supposed to be games that fully demand your attention, and splitting duties with a podcast is somehow seen as diluting the experience?
The answer is no, and after talking with a few developers, a simpler explanation emerged. While this isn’t true for every game on Apple Arcade, a lot of them are built in the Unity engine. By default, there’s a checkbox called “mute other audio sources,” which does exactly what’s happening here: the game will take priority over any other audio, including a podcast. Developers need to consciously uncheck that box in order for things to work in harmony.
This is also why another popular Apple Arcade release, What the Golf, has the same problem. I’ve been told a patch to address this is coming for What the Golf eventually, too.
But like I said: this isn’t the case for every game! Sometimes, the sound-blocking setting is enabled on purpose.
“This was actually intentional, as the sound and music in Where Cards Fall help create the game’s unique atmosphere, and we wanted to make sure all of our players experience them,” said Built By Snowman founder and creative director Ryan Cash. “In Skate City, another game we have in Apple Arcade, players can listen to their own music or podcasts.”
I think developers should just let people do what they want, rather than trying to dictate how to use their device. Maybe they’re playing the game a second time. Who knows? But there’s a lot of games where it seems like they’d have no problem with players multitasking, and thankfully, there might be an understandable reason it’s not possible—and might get fixed.
Follow Patrick on Twitter. If you work have an Apple Arcade recommendation, drop an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. He's also available privately on Signal (224-707-1561).