Apple's new app store guidelines will let game services like Xbox Game Pass (with xCloud) operate on Apple TV and iPhone/iPad. Microsoft says that it "remains a bad experience for customers".
New guidelines for streaming games
In August 2020, Apple made it clear that "Netflix for games"-type services like Google Stadia, PlayStation Now og Xbox Game Pass (with xCloud) are not welcome on the tvOS and iOS app stores.
As part of revised App Store guidelines, Apple has now eased its requirements for 'streaming games' to allow the aforementioned services to be offered on its platforms as long as a list of general requirements for games are met. For example, each game must be individually submitted for approval, all updates must be submitted for approval, and each game must have its own app store page.
- "Streaming games are permitted so long as they adhere to all guidelines — for example, each game update must be submitted for review, developers must provide appropriate metadata for search, games must use in-app purchase to unlock features or functionality, etc.,"
For a service like Xbox Game Pass (with xCloud), the revised guidelines would also allow Microsoft to offer a 'catalog app' that links to each individual game on the app store.
Apple is not reviewing every new episode of a TV series on Netflix. The difference here lies in the fact that Apple classifies a game as an app because it is an interactive experience that can be updated continuously and include in-app purchases.
Microsoft: "A bad experience"
Google has not commented on how the changes will affect its plans for Stadia, and Sony who operates PlayStation Now has generally remained mum on the matter. Microsoft on the other hand was quick to issue its response.
- "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," said Microsoft.
Apple points out that game streaming can be offered to all iOS users via open web browsers outside of the app store. However, this is not possible on Apple TV.
- "Of course, there is always the open Internet and web browser apps to reach all users outside of the App Store," said Apple.
The new App Store guidelines for game streaming are outlined below.
Apple App Store guidelines for streaming games
4.9 Streaming games
Streaming games are permitted so long as they adhere to all guidelines — for example, each game update must be submitted for review, developers must provide appropriate metadata for search, games must use in-app purchase to unlock features or functionality, etc. Of course, there is always the open Internet and web browser apps to reach all users outside of the App Store.
- 4.9.1: Each streaming game must be submitted to the App Store as an individual app so that it has an App Store product page, appears in charts and search, has user ratings and review, can be managed with ScreenTime and other parental control apps, appears on the user’s device, etc.
- 4.9.2: Streaming game services may offer a catalog app on the App Store to help users sign up for the service and find the games on the App Store, provided that the app adheres to all guidelines, including offering users the option to pay for a subscription with in-app purchase and use Sign in with Apple. All the games included in the catalog app must link to an individual App Store product page.