Apple today released an update to its guidelines for the App Store that includes a new language for streaming games that gives the impression that game streaming services are technically permissible. In practice, however, this does not seem to be the case.
Except for the recent spit between Apple and Epic after that Fourteen days Companies trying to provide game streaming services on iOS / iPadOS have been blocked by Apple due to vague rules and regulations. For example, the Google Cloud Gaming Stadia app is only used as a shell to manage your subscription, purchase games, or set up the Stadia controller. You cannot play games with the Stadia app on iOS.
In early August, Microsoft was forced to cancel the beta trial for its xCloud game streaming service (now known as Xbox Game Pass Ultimate). Microsoft stated the following:
“Our test phase for the Project xCloud preview app for iOS has expired. Unfortunately, we have no way of translating our vision of cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate through the Apple App Store to gamers on iOS. Apple is the only all-purpose platform denying consumers cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass. And it treats gaming apps differently, applying milder rules to non-gaming apps, even if they contain interactive content. “
Many hoped that Apple would later clarify or expand the App Store̵
In Section 4.9 of the Apple Store Review Guidelines, which covers streaming games, Apple says:
4.9 Streaming Games
Streaming games are allowed as long as they meet all guidelines. For example, every game update must be submitted for review, developers must provide appropriate metadata for searching, games must use in-app purchase to unlock features or functionality, etc. Of course, there are always internet and web browser apps open, with all users outside of the App Store can be reached.
4.9.1 Each streaming game must be submitted to the App Store as a single app in order for it to have an App Store product page, display in charts and search, have user ratings and ratings, be managed with ScreenTime, and display other parental control apps become user device etc.
4.9.2 Streaming game services may offer a catalog app on the app store that allows users to sign up for the service and find the games in the app store, provided the app follows all guidelines, including the ability to pay for a subscription using in -app Purchase and use Sign in to Apple. All games included in the Catalog App must be linked to a single App Store product page.
While game streaming services are technically allowed, game streaming app developers would need to create individual lists for each game available on the service. Not only is this a huge logistical burden, depending on the copyright and publishing rights for each game, game streaming app developers may not even be allowed to do so.
The requirement is an enormous challenge for any game streaming app, as Apple essentially treats game streaming services completely differently from video streaming services like Netflix, Disney +, Hulu etc., for which no individual App Store- Entries are required for every single show or movie. According to Microsoft, Apple’s policy changes are not good enough.
“This remains a bad experience for customers,” a Microsoft spokesman told The Verge. “As with films or songs, players want to jump straight from a curated catalog into a game within an app and don’t have to download more than 100 apps to play individual games from the cloud. We strive to put the player at the center of everything we do and providing a great experience is at the core of that mission. “
The only small window of time Apple mentions using the internet and web apps to reach users on iOS without going through the App Store. This way, Google could potentially create a workaround for Stadia where users can simply play games through the Chrome browser app for iOS instead of a dedicated app, much like how users access PCs through the desktop Chrome browser on PCs.
Currently, the main way Stadia users bypass Apple rules is to install the Google Remote Desktop app and then access Stadia through the Chrome browser on a connected PC. Because of the added latency this workaround introduces, it will only really work if you have a strong WiFi connection. This means that this isn’t a real solution for gaming on the go.
Unfortunately, while this is a potential way to stream games on iPhones and iPads in the future, it will take some additional time and development from Google, Microsoft, Nvidia, and others to create web portals for their services rather than simply relying on one dedicated standalone app.
But when it comes to the App Store, it’s Apple’s Way or the Highway, and any game streaming service that doesn’t want to follow the rules like Epic Gaming has to give the go-ahead.