Apple changes App Store rules to allow game streaming services

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Microsoft is unhappy with Apple's cloud gaming policies.
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Apple hasn’t done much recently to put itself in the good graces of mobile game developers. However, its latest move might make up for some of those choices. The tech giant updated its App Store rules to allow game streaming services (like Microsoft’s xCloud and Google Stadia) on the platform.

The change is a big reversal for Apple, which has taken a strong stance against streaming services in the past. It is also an acknowledgment of a new era of gaming.

Unfortunately, there’s a catch. Each game will need its own app within the App Store.

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Streaming at Last

Game studios turned to subscriptions as a way to give consumers access to their back catalogs of content. As gamers rapidly accepted the model, more and more developers got on board. Until now, however, these streaming and subscription services weren’t available on iOS.

Apple’s change of heart comes shortly after Microsoft and Facebook publicly criticized its previous approach to what developers can do with their gaming apps.

The iOS giant’s red tape might cause some problems, though. In its new guidelines, Apple says, “Games offered in a streaming game service subscription must be downloaded directly from the App Store, must be designed to avoid duplicate payment by a subscriber, and should not disadvantage non-subscriber customers.”

Apple isn’t going to let companies like Microsoft publish a single app for xCloud. Instead, every individual game will need to be downloadable as its own app. Then, Apple will review the title like it does for the other 1.8 million apps in its virtual store.

For consumers, this will be a major nuisance. Those who want to use a streaming service like xCloud will need to download separate apps for each of the games they want to play. It may also delay the arrival of game streaming services on iOS.

Undoubtedly, developers weren’t planning on releasing individual apps for every game. It will take some time to make that adjustment. Even so, there is a lot of incentive to expand onto iOS. More than one billion people in 175 countries use an Apple device. Hundreds of millions of consumers are also expected to shell out for the iPhone 12—which reportedly will support 5G—in the coming months.

Changing Ways

Today, people are interacting with video games in a much different way than they did just ten years ago. An industry that was once dominated by discs and cartridges moved right through the digital purchase era and into one defined by streaming. Subscription services like Xbox Game Pass, which curates a Netflix-style library of titles, are attractive due to their low price and large selection.

Google Stadia is a bit different. It allows players to take their games on the go without having to worry about hardware or downloads. Streaming a game directly to a smartphone or laptop is attractive to those who don’t want to invest in powerful (but expensive) hardware.

Apple’s move to allow these services on its App Store will make it much easier for players to enjoy their favorite games on an iOS device. It will be interesting to see how the change affects Apple’s own mobile game subscription service. With access to many more titles, iOS gamers might ditch Apple Arcade.

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