Ahead of the launch of iOS 14, Apple has now updated its App Store guidelines to allow game streaming services. The way it does so, however, will likely not be attracting services like Google Stadia and Microsoft xCloud any time soon.
Previously, game streaming services such as those mentioned were unable to fully release on the app store. This was because their apps were repeatedly rejected by Apple for violating its guidelines by allowing user to play games in-app that had not passed through the company’s review process.
The new guidelines attempt to provide a workaround for this. Services such as Stadia and xCloud may now run on the App Store, but games must also be “downloaded” from the App Store as well.
“Games offered in a streaming game service subscription must be downloaded directly from the App Store, must be designed to avoid duplicate payment by a subscriber, and should not disadvantage non-subscriber customers,” state the new guidelines.
The new guidelines seem to imply that each game on a streaming service needs to have its own specific streaming client on the App Store. This, of course, means that each game—or at least its streaming client—needs to pass Apple’s review process.
In other words, it’s a way for Apple to allow game streaming services on its ecosystem, while still maintaining the strict control that they want. The question is if whether the companies behind the streaming services will want to play ball and so far, the answer seems to be “no.”
“This remains a bad experience for customers,” stated a Microsoft spokesperson in an interview with The Verge. “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. We’re committed to putting gamers at the center of everything we do, and providing a great experience is core to that mission.”
If Microsoft were to follow Apple’s suggestion, it would require every game streaming to an iOS device from xCloud to be subject to Apple’s rules. In addition, it would require Microsoft to give Apple a 30 percent cut of in-app purchases—the same cut that’s at the center of the legal scuffle between Apple and Epic Games. (Read: Epic asks court to force Apple to reinstate Fortnite)
One point that Microsoft has raised is the fact that streaming services for movies and music do not face the same content restrictions as games. Services such as Spotify, Netflix or Disney+ are not required to submit each individual movie, TV show or album as a separate app.
The Cupertino, California-based company treats games differently in its App Store, most likely because Apple does get a large amount of revenue from in-app purchases related to games.
Gaming the biggest part of the App Store and the biggest entertainment industry in the U.S. It’s also, however, an industry that Apple has not competed in seriously until recently with Apple Arcade.
Microsoft, on the other hand, has had a large presence in the video game industry. The Redmond, Washington-based tech giant is set to launch its game streaming service, formerly named xCloud, as part of its Xbox Game Pass Ultimate service next week.