Apple Reveals a Number of Changes to Its App Store Rules

In response to complaints from developers, Apple tweaked rules surrounding in-app purchases for iPhone and iPad games that stream directly from the Internet. The company is not changing the 15 to 30 percent fees for app downloads, in-app purchases and subscriptions — a major bone of contention for many developers — but is applying the fees to fewer situations. This change and several others, however, does not impact the existing legal battle between Apple and Epic Games, and Epic chief executive Tim Sweeney criticized Apple’s latest move.

Bloomberg reports that, “the biggest impact may come in the relatively new market for streaming video games.” “For the first time, Apple will approve games that stream directly from the web, versus from content installed on a device,” it explains. Microsoft, Nvidia and Google, all of which have streaming game services not available on Apple devices, have previously been frustrated by the just-lifted rule.

Although their game services still won’t be permitted, these companies can now submit individual games, which will be accepted as long as they “adhere to all guidelines,” which includes submitting each update for review, providing “appropriate metadata for search” and using in-app purchase “to unlock features or functionality.”

Microsoft’s xCloud and Google’s Stadia can now “offer a catalog that directs Apple users to other streaming games they offer … but these catalogs must point players to the Apple App Store to download the other titles individually.” Previously, companies could “offer individual streaming games as long as users streamed the game from a PC on the same Wi-Fi connection as an Apple device” but, with the rule change, that is “no longer required.”

Still, a Microsoft spokesperson noted that, “this remains a bad experience for customers … Gamers want to jump directly into a game from their curated catalog within one app just like they do with movies or songs, and not be forced to download over 100 apps to play individual games from the cloud.”

In another change, Apple is “no longer imposing its in-app purchase requirements on online teaching apps, such as tutoring or workout offerings [but this] only applies to classes that are between two people.” Additionally, Apple changed “rules for in-app-purchases for some services, such as email apps … now allow[ing] more apps to let users create free accounts.”

Also part of the new guidelines, “free apps acting as a standalone companion to a paid web-based tool do not need to use in-app purchase, provided there is no purchasing inside the app, or calls to action for purchase outside of the app.”

Apple Issues New Rules for App Store That Will Impact Streaming Game Services From Google and Microsoft, CNBC, 9/11/20
Apple’s New App Store Guidelines Carve Out Loopholes for xCloud, Stadia, and Other Apps That Apple Had Blocked, The Verge, 9/11/20
Apple Changes App Store Rules to Allow Streaming Game Services, Xbox Says Not Enough, CNET, 9/11/20