Guidelines for new App Store reports published by Apple today allow streaming apps such as Google Stadia and Microsoft’s xCloud to be available on iOS devices for the first time. But the guidelines also place some tough demands on streaming subscriptions for multiple games that can be difficult for services to meet.
In summary, Apple̵
More than that, though, each game in a multi-game streaming subscription must be submitted separately for review by the App Store. That step is necessary so that each game can “[have] an App Store product page, displayed in charts and searches, [have] user ratings and review … managed with ScreenTime and other parental control apps, displayed on the user’s device, etc. “
Besides being a logistical headache, this can also serve as a licensing issue for some streaming game vendors. A service like Stadia, for example, must acquire not only the rights to stream third-party games as part of the service, but also the rights to submit the game as a standalone iOS app of any kind.
Individual gaming apps for streaming on iOS can be gathered in a unique “catalog app”, similar to GameClub’s collection of downloadable iOS games. But every single game in the catalog “must link to a single App Store product page.” The service as a whole must also offer an option in the app for new subscribers, although users who subscribe outside the app will also be able to use it.
Apple also requires that streaming game subscriptions do not “inconvenience non-subscribers.” It seems to suggest that each streaming game app must be at least minimally functional on its own, with no subscription, even if it means providing only a short, time-limited demo of the game in question. We have contacted Apple for clarification on how this can work for game streaming apps.
When Ars was contacted, Google representatives declined to comment on the new policy. Microsoft representatives did not respond to a request for comment from Ars.[[[[Update: In a statement issued to the media, Microsoft said: “This is still a bad experience for customers. Players will jump directly into a game from their curated catalog in an app, just as they do with movies or songs, and not be forced to download over 100 apps to play individual games from the cloud. We are committed to putting players at the center of everything we do, and providing a great experience is at the heart of this mission. “]
To crack the door
It should be clear by now that Apple’s guidelines for game streaming differ significantly from those that apply to other streaming subscription services on the App Store. Netflix does not need to submit individual movies for Apple approval or offer each movie as its own “app”, to cite one of many examples.
Microsoft noted so much in a statement last month, as the App Store policy did not allow streaming apps at all. “[Apple] consistently treats gaming apps differently, applying softer rules to non-gaming apps, even when they include interactive content, “the company said at the time. All games available in the Xbox Game Pass catalog are ranked for content by independent industry rankings such as the ESRB and regional equivalents. “
Elsewhere in the new policy, Apple now allows iOS apps that act “as a stand-alone companion to a paid online tool.” Such apps are fine as long as they do not offer in-app purchases “or in-app purchases outside the app.” This cut-off seems particularly targeted at services like Basecamp’s hey.com email, which came in a hot battle with Apple earlier this summer.
Apps that deal with real-person experiences from person to person can now facilitate payments without using Apple’s purchasing tools in the app, the company says. This exception only applies to “one-on-one” experiences between two people, but not one-to-many broadcast situations.
Finally, “browser” apps like Netflix or Kindle (ie apps that only use content or subscriptions purchased elsewhere) can now offer account creation for existing free levels of services, as well as account management tools for current subscribers, without breaking Apple’s rules.
Today’s policy changes come after Apple opened the app review process to provide more feedback and flexibility from developers who break company rules.