And I’m not talking about an Apple service
A month ago, it looked like Apple had dropped a glove when it came to game streaming services. They had already been receptive to Google’s Stadia and NVIDIA’s GeForce. Steam was forced to create an app that works more like a remote desktop than a streaming service to get around the App Store rules. Then we had Microsoft and Facebook with sharp comments like the previously abandoned development of xCloud and Xbox Game Pass on iOS, and later released a game app without actual games.
Then Apple responded by clarifying the iOS rules regarding game streaming a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, it felt like an open door, and it could be for a few services, more like a bar deliberately set too high. Microsoft̵
However, it seems that there are some things that brew below the surface. Based on a few things that have been said and done in the last two weeks, I feel that the parties involved are at least still talking and negotiating. The first was a comment from Xbox boss Phil Spencer to CNBC:
“There are over three billion people playing video games today. Many of them play on phones, and we are committed to bringing Game Pass out to all mobile phones, including Apple phones. We will continue the talks and I am sure we can find a solution. ”
This statement raised many eyebrows a few days ago. The confidence at the end of the quote is new. This is a shift from the more pointed complaints against Apple in the last month. I do not believe for a moment that Microsoft will comply with Game Pass to Apple’s App Store rules, so this makes me think that there are discussions between the two parties. Whether Apple might be willing to change rules they just clarified again, or help Microsoft rework Game Pass to run on Safari, it feels to me like something takes place behind the scenes.
This was also not the only movement in game streaming on iOS and its variants. Amazon announced Luna, its surprising race into this new and fast-growing space, this week. I did not think much about it at the time and realized that it would face the same barriers that Microsoft, NVIDIA and Facebook are against. However, this is not the case.
Luna runs the online route for iOS. When Apple released the clarified rules for game streaming, progressive web apps were specifically mentioned as an alternative to circumventing the rules and subscription revenue in the App Store. Instead of hitting his head against the brick wall, Amazon has taken the easier route. They also had some help along the way. As detailed in an exclusive interview with Engadget, Luna for engineering and technology leader George Tsipolitis had this to say about Amazon working directly with Apple to deliver this new service on iOS:
“We worked with the Safari team to make sure that some of the things that were not there were there, and that made it possible for us to get where we are today.”
It’s one thing for Amazon to take the open road to reach iOS users on day one. However, it is another that Apple gave them direct support to work around issues and make sure things worked the first day. Considering that most of the technology press saw Apple’s mention of the open web as an opportunity for game streaming as an empty gesture, this is a very smart move on their part.
Another comment later in the Engadget article is even more interesting:
“We continue to work with Apple,” Whitten said. “We want to make a native experience. They consider what their policy is there, they keep talking about them. And when we can find a good experience there, we send it too. “
Again, it certainly sounds like things are being talked about in the background.
There was another small move this week that also shows that Microsoft has not moved off the table when it comes to games on Apple platforms. On Monday, they announced that Remote Play of a user’s game library would be freely available on Android. There were obviously many negative comments about Apple on Twitter after this, but my answer was to ask why Microsoft would drop this on one platform and not the other. This is because streaming games from a local Xbox is 100% within Apple’s current App Store rules.
As we all know now, Microsoft followed through and announced the Remote Play for Xbox IS also comes to the iOS version of the Xbox app. This is good news because it shows that Microsoft is not going the silly personal route that Time Sweeney and Epic follow towards Apple. It’s clear that the road is still open for major changes in the future, and that’s a good thing for all users of Apple products, especially those who also own an Xbox.
Combined with the previous comment from Phil Spencer from Microsoft and Amazon’s Luna News, it feels like Apple’s position on game streaming is still a moving target. Apparently they have even added controller support for Google Stadia to Safari on macOS as well. Although it seemed like game streaming was a complete no-go for Apple a month ago, little things are happening around their ecosystem at the moment. I think there is still room for optimism that a major shift is still on the horizon.
As an Apple fan and user, I want to see the company continue to loosen its reign and let game streaming not only work, but flourish across their entire ecosystem. I’m not a hardcore player, so this is honestly not that big for me personally. However, I know it is for a large number of other Apple users, and that makes it important for their platforms as a whole. Apple should be doing what is best for its users, so it should be a no-brainer to relax the restrictions on game streaming.
Come on, Tim Cook. Find out and get it done.