Apple has made some changes to its App Store guidelines concerning game streaming services like xCloud and Stadia. The new rules allow for game streaming, but with restrictions and caveats that will likely continue to keep these services off Apple products for the foreseeable future.
Previously, game streaming services like xCloud and Stadia weren’t allowed on the App Store because Apple couldn’t review each individual game. Today, ahead of the launch of iOS 14, Apple has updated its App Store guidelines. According to CNBC, game streaming services like Stadia and xCloud are now allowed on the App Store, but there are restrictions. Apple requires any company wanting to stream games on an iPhone to provide a separate app for each individual game on the App Store, which will have to go through Apple’s review process. Developers will be allowed to create “catalog apps” that let players quickly find these separate game streaming apps, but that catalog wouldn’t provide direct access to the games themselves.
There are numerous problems with this setup. For starters, one of the big selling points of services like Stadia is the instant access to all of the service’s games. Downloading the apps for each game, rather than simply streaming them, basically breaks the whole idea behind services like xCloud and Stadia. Additionally, each individual game would have to go through the App Store’s review process and be subject to Apple’s current 30% cut, the latter being a source of scrutiny in recent weeks since Fortnite rebelled against Apple’s payment policies by releasing its own payment method on the App Store. Rather than being a solution, the new guidelines seem like an unwieldy workaround that doesn’t actually allow these services to work on iOS devices.
Kotaku has contacted Microsoft and Google about the recent Apple guideline changes. Google declined to comment.
Update: 4:47 PM: In a statement to Kotaku, Microsoft responded to the new rules:
“This remains a bad experience for customers. Gamers want to jump directly into a game from their curated catalog within one app just like they do with movies or songs, and not be forced to download over 100 apps to play individual games from the cloud. We’re committed to putting gamers at the center of everything we do, and providing a great experience is core to that mission.”
Early last month, Apple explained that they wouldn’t allow xCloud or Stadia on the App Store, saying “Our customers enjoy great apps and games from millions of developers, and gaming services can absolutely launch on the App Store as long as they follow the same set of guidelines applicable to all developers, including submitting games individually for review, and appearing in charts and search.” These new rules seem to be more of a doubling down of Apple’s rules, rather than allowances for streaming services. Microsoft responded back in August about xCloud being blocked from the App Store, telling Protocol’s Seth Schiesel: “Apple stands alone as the only general-purpose platform to deny consumers from cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass.”
The fight between game streaming services and Apple will likely continue, as these new rules still seem too restrictive to allow Stadia or xCloud to finally be available on iOS devices. Considering Apple’s track record with gaming companies that want to let players stream games on their iPhones, it seems like a longshot that Apple is going to make drastic changes to their rules in the near future.