Apple Stands Firm in Its App Store Rules for Cloud Gaming

After Apple repeatedly rejected the Facebook Gaming app for iOS devices, it finally approved it for the App Store — with the proviso that Facebook strip out all the playable games. Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg slammed the decision, saying that “iOS users [will] have an inferior experience to those using Android.” Apple’s App Store also won’t permit Microsoft’s xCloud gaming service as, in the past, it also gave the cold shoulder to Google’s Stadia. Late last week, Facebook announced a new version of its Gaming app for iPhone and iPad users.

Variety reports that, in rejecting Facebook Gaming, Apple cited “App Store guideline 4.7, which states HTML5 games are permitted as long as ‘code distribution isn’t the primary purpose of the app’.” When Apple announced an appeal system at the Worldwide Developers Conference, Facebook said it used it to make a formal appeal but “never received a response from Apple.”

Although “Apple’s rejection of the Facebook Gaming app was premised on the conclusion that the primary purpose of the Facebook Gaming app is to play games, according to Facebook, about 95 percent of app activity on Android is from watching game livestreams.” Facebook Gaming vice president Vivek Sharma said he has “shared this stat with Apple, but no luck.”

The Verge reports that, “Microsoft cut off iOS testing for its xCloud app well ahead of its September 15th launch date on Android,” stating that cloud services are “in violation of App Store guidelines and cannot, in their current forms, ever exist on iOS.” That doesn’t simply impact Microsoft’s xCloud but also rival Google Stadia and the Android-only Nvidia’s GeForce NOW service.

In its official statement, Apple said that, to be in the App Store, games much be submitted individually for review. Microsoft responded that Apple applies “more lenient rules to non-gaming apps” and that it is “committed to finding a path to bring cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to the iOS platform.”

According to The Verge, Apple’s problem with streaming game services is that the games are not stored on a local device. Rather, with xCloud and Stadia, users pay for the service and then the service allows them to pay for or access free games from the cloud.

“So Apple doesn’t know what you’re buying or playing on its devices because it can’t review them beforehand,” it says. “It also doesn’t see any revenue from these services if they’re simply allowing you to access a subscription service you already pay for, which was the crux of a big showdown between Apple and Basecamp, the creator of new email service Hey, last month.”

The Verge adds that, “Google and Microsoft probably don’t want to offer signup options within the apps themselves because that would mean giving Apple a 30 percent cut of subscription revenue.” Google, Microsoft and Nvidia could change the “core functionality of their respective apps,” it concludes. “But it seems unlikely in the short term.”

Facebook Gaming Finally Clears Apple Hurdle, Arriving in App Store, The New York Times, 8/7/20

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