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Apple’s new App Store rules close loopholes for xCloud, Stadia, and more

Apple has issued new rules for its App Store to address many of the problems Apple has seen in controlling the digital storefront for iPhone devices. These include updates to game streaming services, new rules for online classes, and fewer restrictions on in-app purchases for free email apps that were at the center of Apple’s earlier controversy with Hey.

At the forefront of the changes is an explicit regulation for game streaming services such as Google Stadia or Microsoft xCloud, which Apple informs CNBC are new allowed – but the new rules show that every game must also be downloaded “directly from the app store”

; and each game update must be sent individually to Apple before a company can stream it to users. This means that Microsoft or Google cannot create a single overarching xCloud or Stadia app that includes access to all games. However, you can offer individual games in the App Store as separate software using their streaming technology, with a catalog-style app that collects these individual apps and links them to them.

Additionally, all of these game streaming apps will continue to be subject to Apple’s usual App Store rules, including the company’s controversial 30 percent cut that is currently the subject of Apple’s ongoing battle against Epic Games.

Microsoft and Google would have to radically change their proposed business models, jumping through many frames, to bring their cloud gaming services to the iPhone in this way – enough that it almost looks like Apple designed the rules to be benevolent could have an effect while xCloud and Stadia are retained. Google declined to comment on these changes.

Here are the full guidelines for “Streaming Games,” but also listed elsewhere in the revised Apple Rules:

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, include 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.

The updated rules also clarify whether digital fitness or tutoring courses must be billed via the App Store (with Apple shortening). According to the new guidelines, “one-to-one experiences” do not have to be billed through the App Store, but “one-to-few or one-to-many services” require the usual in-app purchase.

Finally, rule 3.1.3 (f) adds a formal exception for “free apps that act as a standalone companion for a paid web-based tool”. According to Apple, this category includes VOIP, cloud storage, email services, and web hosting applications that are now exempt from using Apple’s in-app purchase for subscriptions. As with the other rules, there are some restrictions: developers cannot offer purchases within the app itself or include a call to action to make purchases elsewhere.

The new rule comes after Apple’s chaotic battle with the Hey e-mail app developed by Basecamp, in which the updates were initially rejected and then added back to the app store because there was a dispute about whether the in-app purchase system of Apple must be used (and its 30 percent fee). There was another battle with WordPress where the completely free app was apparently forced to add in-app purchases until Apple pulled out and apologized for “any confusion we caused”. The new rule also seems to allow the original implementation of the Hey Email app, without the changes the company had to add to the free version of the app for Apple to approve.

Find the full changelog of Apple’s App Store policies here.

Update September 11, 1:50 p.m. ET: Added Google no comment.

Correction September 11, 2 p.m. ET: Basecamp is the developer of Hey, not Bandcamp. We regret this mistake.

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