Apple released some interesting updates to its App Store rules this morning. The main headlines were a section dedicated to cloud gaming platforms such as Microsoft xCloud and Google Stadia.
This is due to very public complaints from Microsoft regarding the rejection of xCloud from the App Store, which Apple denied because the App Store rules basically did not allow game streaming platforms. The gamer outcry was noteworthy as this launch is focused on the future of the Xbox platform. This saga was also scheduled in time with Epic Games̵
It was clear that Apple’s outdated App Store rules needed to be updated, but now that we see their solution, it is clear that things are getting very messy for platform operators and game developers hoping for an easy fix.
Apple goes to war with the games industry
The essential thing is that Apple allows game streaming platforms like xCloud and Stadia to operate, but that each game in its library must have its own app store list and that each title must be “downloaded” from the store. Each of these games can be discovered on the App Store, which may mean the same game is on multiple sites for multiple streaming platforms. xCloud and Stadia can also save their own “Catalog” apps, but they still have to toss users into the App Store if they want to get a new title.
The bottom line is that this solution is incredibly less plug-and-play for game developers, and developers need to integrate their payment systems with Apple’s in-app purchase frameworks. This also means that developers have to weigh the in-app purchases cut for Apple against the deals they have made with the streaming platforms. It’s complicated, but iOS is such a massive platform that these developers have no choice but to meet the demands, especially given how much Microsoft is pushing xCloud.
It’s nowhere near the ideal solution for the cloud gaming platforms, but this is probably as good as it gets. This will likely add to the popularity of these platforms by giving multiple entry points to buying a subscription, which Apple will certainly highlight if there are complaints, but it will also increase the likelihood that a consumer who buys a subscription will do so on Apple Payment the Apple tax on this subscription. It seems like users will likely download the app for free and then be asked to either subscribe or enter their credentials for the streaming platform of their choice.
Let’s get to the wording of the law, because Apple is an advocate of precision when it comes to these rules.
4.92 Streaming Games
Streaming games are allowed as long as they adhere to all guidelines – for example any game Update must be submitted for review, developers must provide appropriate metadata for search, games must use the in-app purchase to unlock features or functions, etc. Of course, there are always open internet and web browser apps to reach all users outside of the App Store.
Any streaming game Must be submitted to the App Store as a single app so that it has an App Store product page, shows up in charts and search, contains user ratings and ratings, can be managed with ScreenTime and other parental control apps, and on the device of the user is displayed. Etc.
Streaming game Services may offer a catalog app on the App Store that users can use to sign up for the service and find them games in the App Store, provided the app adheres to all guidelines, including the ability for users to pay for a subscription when purchasing in-app and sign in to Apple. All the games included in the catalog app must be linked to a single App Store product page.