Cloud gaming will have a big moment on the phone next month with the launch of Microsoft's xCloud service, but iOS users will be excluded. And now we know exactly why: Apple does not allow these products due to strict App Store guidelines, which make it virtually impossible for cloud services like xCloud and its competitor Google Stadia to work on the iPhone.
We already knew there was a problem, probably related to the App Store, why Stadia was not available for Apple devices, and why the Microsoft service would likely face a similar fate. It seemed even more likely that xCloud's fate was sealed on iOS yesterday when Microsoft canceled iOS testing for its xCloud app well before the September 15 launch date for Android. Similarly, Nvidia's GeForce Now service is only available for Android when it comes to phones, although you can technically access titles that you already own on this platform.
But Apple finally found out in a statement to Business Insider that these types of cloud services violate the App Store guidelines and can never exist in their current form on iOS. The main reason: they provide access to apps that Apple cannot check individually.
Here is the official Apple statement:
The App Store was created to provide customers with a safe and trustworthy place to discover and download apps, and a great business opportunity for all developers. Before going to our shop, all apps are checked against the same guidelines, which protect customers and are intended to offer developers fair and equal competitive conditions.
Our customers enjoy great apps and games from millions of developers, and gaming services can be absolutely launched on the App Store, provided they follow the same guidelines that apply to all developers, including custom submission of games for review and display on charts and at Search. In addition to the App Store, developers can reach all iPhone and iPad users on the Internet via Safari and other browsers in the App Store.
As early as March, Bloomberg reported that Apple offers a very similar justification when it comes to potential antitrust issues related to Apple's Arcade Subscription Service, which the company operates despite its competitors' headaches.
Microsoft said in a new statement to The Verge on Thursday that no solution could be found to bring xCloud to iOS through the App Store, and it is now Apple's sole responsibility to "stand alone" when it comes to that To reject consumers The advantages of cloud games through "consistent different treatment of gaming apps" and "application of milder rules to non-gaming apps". The company plans to continue looking for a way to bring cloud games and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to iOS devices.
Here is the full explanation from a Microsoft spokesman:
Our trial period for the Project xCloud preview app for iOS has expired. Unfortunately, we have no way to transfer our vision of cloud games with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to gamers on iOS through the Apple App Store. Apple is the only general-purpose platform that denies consumers cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass. And it treats gaming apps consistently differently and applies milder rules to non-gaming apps, even if they contain interactive content. All games available in the Xbox Game Pass catalog are rated for content by independent industry rating panels such as the ESRB and regional equivalents. We're striving to find a way to bring cloud games to the iOS platform with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. We believe that the customer should be the focus of the gaming experience, and players tell us that they want to play, connect and share anywhere, no matter where they are. We agree.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge
Regardless, the key element in this statement is: “Including games for review individually and displaying on charts and in search.” How Stadia works today and how xCloud works next month is that you have access to the service pay for yourself. With this service, you can then pay for or access free games from the cloud. Unlike the Apple-approved Valve Steam Link app, these games are not stored on a local device in your home (although Valve had its own problems approving Steam Link on iOS).
So Apple doesn't know what you buy or play on its devices because it cannot check them in advance. There is also no revenue from these services if you can only access a subscription service that you have already paid for. This was at the core of a big showdown between Apple and Basecamp, creator of the new email service Hey, last month, which was only resolved when Basecamp compromised with the iPhone manufacturer by giving its iOS app a free one Login option added.
Apple explains all of this in the App Store guidelines, particularly in section 4.2.7:
4.2.7 Remote desktop clients: If your remote desktop app acts as a mirror of certain software or services and not as a general mirror of the host device, the following must be met:
(a) The app may only connect to a user's host device that is a user's PC or dedicated game console, and both the host device and the client must be connected on a local and LAN-based network .
(b) Software or services displayed on the client run entirely on the host device, rendered on the screen of the host device, and may not use APIs or platform features that go beyond what is necessary to stream the remote desktop.
(c) All account creation and management must be initiated from the host device.
(d) The user interface displayed on the client is not similar to any iOS or App Store view, does not offer a store-like interface or offers the option to search, select or buy software that has not yet been owned or licensed by the user . For the sake of clarity, transactions that take place in mirrored software do not have to use in-app purchase, provided the transactions are processed on the host device.
(e) Thin clients for cloud-based apps are not suitable for the app store.
In other words, unless it's a full remote desktop app, a cloud gaming service is not allowed because these guidelines are written today – even if they are very closely tailored LAN services like Steam Link and Sony PS4 Remote Play.
Some services, such as B. Shadow, found workarounds that are available on the App Store
Google and Microsoft probably don't want to offer sign-up options for the apps themselves, as that would mean Apple cuts subscription revenue by 30 percent. However, apps without account creation options violate section (c). Compliance with section (a) is also impossible, considering that these cloud servers on which the games are running are not owned by consumers and are located in their homes, but are located in distant data centers. Section (e) immediately states that this type of thing – a “thin client for cloud-based apps” – cannot exist in the App Store at all. it's not "appropriate," says Apple.
There are some workarounds here. With the Shadow Cloud game service, for example, you can access a “host device” of a remote computer that is not owned by the user, but is rented by the company itself. It is also not on the same network as the device that is accessing it. However, Shadow works and is available for iOS today.
A shadow spokesman tells The Verge that when he found that his iOS app had been in dispute with Apple earlier this year, he removed the quick start feature that allows users to boot directly into games. It was then approved because the app worked more like a remote desktop service – the "generic mirror of the host device" that Apple mentioned as an exception in its App Store guidelines. With Shadow, you'll still need to install Steam, sign in, and access your existing titles, just like with any other remote desktop app. However, the remote user of the device is a gaming PC that Shadow rents to you monthly. This is a smart way to get around these limitations.
iOS users will miss the mobile x-centered cloud gaming wave that will arrive with xCloud
Valve did something similar with Steam Link by removing the option to buy games from the iOS version of the app, as Apple questioned the fact that Steam Link effectively acted as an app store in the app store, which oversees the review processes of Apple bypassed.
What does it all mean? Well, for now, iOS users will be missing out on the mobile cloud gaming wave that will arrive when xCloud launches. There may be a way that Google, Microsoft, and Nvidia can work around this by changing the core functionality of their respective apps.
In the short term, however, this seems unlikely. The app store is a huge market, so lucrative developers have been jumping from tire to tire for years to access its nearly 1.5 billion users. In this case, however, there is a fundamental difference between how these services work and how Apple wants software to work on the iPhone and iPad. That doesn't seem to be changing anytime soon.
Update August 6, 8:53 p.m. ET: Microsoft instruction added.