Apple revealed today that after refusing to allow cloud gaming apps such as Google Stadia and Microsoft’s xCloud on the App Store, it is now revising these policies to allow them to enter – although the policies are still very restrictive.
The new rules have a lot to do with streaming games and how they fit into the App Store ecosystem. They allow services to have App Store catalog apps and access to Apple’s payment device, but each game must pass an individual review process. Here are the new sections in their entirety:
Streaming games are allowed as long as they adhere to all guidelines ̵1; for example, every game update must be submitted for review, developers must provide appropriate search metadata, games must use in-app purchases to unlock features or functionality, etc. Of course, it always is open apps for the Internet and browser to reach all users outside App Store.
4.9.1 Each streaming game must be sent to App Store as an individual app so that it has one App Store product page, displayed in charts and searches, has user ratings and review, can be managed with ScreenTime and other parental control tabs, displayed on user’s device, etc.
4.9.2 Streaming gaming services can offer a directory app on App Store to help users sign up for the service and find the games on App Store, provided that the app complies with all policies, including offering users the option to pay for a subscription with in-app purchases and use the Sign In with Apple. All games included in the catalog app must link to one person App Store product page.
The problem is that every single game available via Stadia and xCloud must be sent to the App Store as a separate app. This sounds extremely difficult, especially considering that the Xbox Game Pass (of which xCloud is a part) offers hundreds of games. Microsoft sent another statement The Verge after the rules were revealed and said: “This is still a bad experience for customers. Players will jump directly into a game from their curated catalog in one app, just as they do with movies or songs, and will not be forced to download over 100 apps to play individual games from the cloud. “And they have a point – the appeal of cloud games is not having to download the process.
Still, it’s something … a kind of concession. Now no one can say that Apple did not at least try to meet Microsoft and Google halfway. It remains to be seen if the companies can get to a place where everyone will be happy.
Maybe I’ve spent a little too much time reading and writing about Apple vs. Epic Games nonsense, but I wonder if Apple does this to look a little more flexible than it has done before. Part of the argument from Epic and its supporters is that Apple is a cruel gatekeeper, who denies access to the iOS platform and maintains an unfair monopoly over it. Apple’s ban on xCloud was mentioned, albeit briefly, in Epic’s original lawsuit, which was due to “the same policies outlined above that are designed to protect Apple’s monopoly over the iOS App Distribution Market.” So when I say “no one can say …” I’m talking about Epic.
Other changes to the rules include a provision that apps that are free versions of paid online tools do not need to use Apple’s purchasing system, which means it can officially dive Apple’s fees. The new rules will also allow the original version of the Hey email app, which is ironic when Apple CEO Phil Schiller bluntly said that Apple would not change the rules for Hey.
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