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Apple updates more guidelines for reviewing apps that address game streaming services, in-app purchases, advertising and more

Today, Apple released an update to the app review guidelines that addresses many of the gray areas around them that have been the subject of several controversies in recent weeks.

The guidelines are effective today, but Apple says it wants to work with developers to give them as much time as possible to implement these changes, which will give developers some time to make the necessary adjustments.

The changes today include the following:

Game streaming services

Under section 3.1.2 (a), games offered via game streaming services must be downloadable from the App Store. Unless changes are made to the Services, this excludes apps that allow streaming of console games to iPhones and iPads using services such as Google̵

7;s Stadia or Microsoft’s xCloud, but will not change the status of game subscription services such as GameClub. The services should also be designed to avoid duplicate payment from subscribers and should not disadvantage non-subscribers.

Guideline 4.9 stipulates that game streaming services must also meet the same requirements as apps that can be downloaded from the App Store, including app review, and that provide metadata for search, and in-app purchases must be used to unlock features. Each game that is part of a streaming service must be sent to the App Store as a separate app, so it has a product page in the store and is subject to the same guidelines as other apps. Section 4.9.2 further specifies that Game Streaming Services may offer a directory app to assist users with registration and finding games if they comply with the app review guidelines, including the use of in-app purchases to pay for subscriptions and sign-in with Apple. According to Apple, the requirements in section 4.9 will allow a streaming service to offer the game as a download on the App Store with basic functionality with additional levels and games streamed to a player’s device.

The rules also clarify in section 2.3.1 that games may not include hidden, dormant or paperless features, and that the functionality must be clear to users and the App Review, an addition that is clearly caused by Apple’s recent dispute with Epic Games.

Person-to-person experiences

Section 3.1.3 (d) of the guidelines specifies that the use of in-app purchases is not necessary for one-on-one experiences such as guidance or training hours, but must be used for one-to-few or one-to-many services.

According to the new guideline 2.5.16, app clips, widgets, notifications and extensions must not include advertising, be included in the app’s binary program, and the functionality must be related to the content and functionality of their app. Ads should also not be placed in third-party keyboards or Watch apps, in accordance with Guideline 3.1.7.

Personal loans

Section 3.2.2 (x) requires that apps that offer personal loans, clearly identify the terms of the loans and provide some specific guidelines for certain loan terms.

There are other changes to the app review guidelines, including a few narrow exceptions to the requirements that developers use in-app purchases, but it is clear from the changes that their primary goal is to clarify Apple’s position on game streaming services. Although not directly excluded, the requirement to include a separate App Store app places significant demands on service providers that many may not be able to comply with for technical or practical reasons.

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