Streaming services that let you play video games without having to download them, such as Microsoft xCloud and Google Stadia, will not work on iPhones, Apple has confirmed.
Apple said that these game streaming services violate the terms and conditions of its App Store, as they give access to games the company can’t individually review.
The tech giant said all apps are reviewed against the same set of guidelines ‘intended to protect customers’ and provide a level playing field to developers.
Microsoft is expected to launch its xCloud gaming service for Android on September 15 and announced it has ended testing for the iOS version of the mobile app.
Google-owned Stadia, which launched to the general public in November 2019, is similarly only available on Android devices.
Microsoft is expected to launch its xCloud gaming service for Android on September 15 and announced it has ended testing for the iOS version of the mobile app
Apple said that these cloud gaming services violate the terms and conditions of the App Store as they give access to games the company can’t individually review
These cloud gaming services, which also include Nvidia GeForce Now, allow the user to access a wide range of games including higher end titles.
Microsoft xCloud will be the first of these services to offer subscribers access to over 100 games for smartphones and tablets via a built-in Netflix-like library, for a subscription fee of $15 a month.
However, iPhone and iPad users will not be able to take advantage of the service.
Apple does have its own game subscription service – Apple Arcade – but unlike xCloud and Stadia the games have to be downloaded to the device so it is not a streaming service.
Providing access to titles not reviewed individually by Apple violates a core part of the App Store terms and conditions, according to Apple, making the services impossible to operate.
‘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,’ Apple said in a statement.
This requires developers to submit games individually for review, and for those games to appear in App Store charts and search – something unlikely to be viable for cloud services.
However, iPhone users will be able to access xCloud and Stadia through a browser.
‘In addition to the App Store, developers can choose to reach all iPhone and iPad users over the web through Safari and other browsers on the App Store,’ Apple said.
Microsoft told The Verge it could not find a solution that would allow it to bring its xCloud service to iOS via the App Store, blaming Apple for its rules.
The company said that Apple ‘stands alone’ in denying consumers the benefits of cloud gaming and claimed it ‘treats gaming apps differently’ to non-gaming apps.
‘All games available in the Xbox Game Pass catalogue are rated for content by independent industry ratings bodies,’ Microsoft said in a statement.
‘We are committed to finding a path to bring cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to the iOS platform.’
Stadia and xCloud involve users paying for access to the service, which they can then use to play games in the cloud – with nothing stored locally.
This means Apple has no way of knowing what games a user is buying or playing on devices.
Steam Link, produced by Valve, is available for iOS, but unlike cloud gaming services it only lets you access games on your own home network.
This is allowed under the terms and conditions – which make provision for remote desktop apps – but not cloud gaming services.
Providing access to titles not reviewed individually by Apple violates a core part of the App Store terms and conditions making the services impossible to operate
One of the issues that may be stopping Apple from re-writing its terms and conditions to allow these types of apps is the potential lost revenue.
When someone signs up for a service or buys an app from the App Store, the company takes a 30 per cent cut of the sale – something that wouldn’t happen if people are using third party apps to play games.
The App Store guidelines also explicitly bar cloud gaming apps through a ‘thin client’ provision that means software can’t access games not stored on the device.
With a market of nearly 1.5 billion users the Apple App Store is a lucrative platform the likes of Microsoft and Google are unlikely to want to ignore.
There are options open to them – such as changing the core functionality of their service that prevents users from buying games – as Valve did with Steam Link.