Cloud gaming is increasingly becoming a thing that allows you to play AAA games on one device regardless of the hardware specs. If your device can stream a video, it can likely play Red Dead Redemption on Google Stadia or Halo on Microsoft's xCloud (now technically known as "Cloud Gaming (Beta) with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate"). However, if your device is an iPhone or iPad, you are out of luck. According to Apple, these apps violate the App Store guidelines and are not allowed in Apple's walled garden.
Apple sent a statement to Business Insider:
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.
Apple's App Store pitch is for real, living people to personally review each app for security and quality, and provide users with a single, trusted place to get all of their apps. Apple would like to approve these games individually and let users rate them individually through the App Store. The guidelines Apple cites prohibit displaying "store-like interfaces" on a remote computer and "thin clients for cloud-based apps", which Stadia and xCloud both violate.
The approval process also ensures that developers adhere to Apple's developer guidelines. This includes, for example, exclusive rights for all transactions under iOS. Apple wants payments to be made through its own services, which will cut sales. The App Store has some expenses to pay for, like the salaries of all those human app approvers, developer support, and hosting costs, but estimates put Apple's App Store revenue at $ 15 billion in 2019 has lowered. Apple is making a massive profit.
Microsoft previously beta tested xCloud on iOS and it sounds pretty unhappy about Apple's guidelines. Microsoft sent the following statement to The Verge:
Our trial period for the Project xCloud preview app for iOS has expired. Unfortunately, we have no way of translating our vision of cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate through the Apple App Store to gamers on iOS. Apple is the only all-purpose platform denying 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. Do we agree?
Microsoft's claim that Apple "treats gaming apps differently" is a pretty strong argument considering that Xbox Game Pass, as an all-you-can-eat gaming subscription, isn't all that different from streaming video. Services like Netflix or Disney + are allowed in the App Store. Apple's aversion to remote computing could be seen as a push for more consistent, more powerful native apps (as well as platform protectionism), but the AAA games streamed through these services would either not be possible or very impractical as iOS native apps. For example, Red Dead Redemption 2 takes up 150 GB on PC.
Enlarge /. The Xbox Game Pass. Available in the Google Play Store and even in the Samsung Galaxy Store, but not in the Apple App Store.
Google, on the other hand, has not responded to Stadia's iOS ban. Google has fewer arguments than Microsoft because Stadia is a business. The games cost money on top of the $ 10 monthly fee for things like 4K resolution. So XCloud is not the "Netflix for games". Google is definitely more used to it than Microsoft, too. Google and Apple's App Store go back sparingly to the beginning when Google Voice was banned for one year in 2009 because it offered an alternative way of making calls. There's technically a Stadia iOS app, but only for the weird Stadia set-up process. Google's app description specifically states, "You cannot use the Stadia app to play games directly on an iOS device, but you can use the app to manage Stadia on other devices."
Apple's App Store guidelines have been in the news a lot lately. Developers like Basecamp and Epic Games have criticized the company's cut on every App Store sale. In the EU, complaints from companies like Spotify and Telegram lead to an antitrust investigation into Apple App Store guidelines. The other news on the App Store today is that the Facebook gaming app – Facebook's Twitch.tv clone – has come to iOS with the gaming part removed. With Facebook Gaming on Android, not only can you watch live streams, but you can also play HTML games like Plants versus Zombies. However, Apple blocked the app because it bypassed the App Store. Facebook appealed the decision as part of the new App Store appeal process announced at WWDC, but received no response.
Many of Apple's policies can be defended to move developers towards more consistent, user-friendly options, or to cover the cost of the app store infrastructure and review process. However, it is difficult to come up with a user-centered defense for the cloud gaming ban. Apple doesn't offer such a thing, and the games aren't really possible any other way on iOS. You could say that cloud gaming means fewer games bought in the Apple gaming ecosystem, but the same goes for Netflix, which is pulling eyeballs off Apple's video content.