Apple has made rule changes to its App Store guidelines, which could have a big impact on Microsoft and Google’s plans to offer streaming services. The rule changes appear more favorable to Microsoft xCloud and Google Stadia, but there still appear to be unresolved questions about how it will work.
Apple’s new guidelines explicitly say that streaming services are restricted. However, those games would need to be downloaded from the App Store individually. Apple will allow providers to have a “catalog” app that manages these downloads, but each game would have to be its own distinct listing.
That would appear to rule out the streaming services, as both xCloud and Stadia rely on a model in which you don’t download individual games at all. Instead, the games stream through the cloud, similar to watching a movie on Netflix–which Apple allows through its App Store, of course.
Allowing a catalog of games to download under one payment umbrella is more akin to Microsoft’s Game Pass subscription service. Microsoft recently announced that a Game Pass subscription will soon include xCloud access, but an all-you-can-eat download subscription and a streaming service are still two very different functionalities.
In a Twitter thread, analyst Daniel Ahmad pointed out that Apple has clarified that companies can submit each individual game, including demos, and then have them available for streaming functionality. But this could be hundreds of games, and each would have to be evaluated individually. Plus, by submitting them this way, Apple would get its share of the profits from any in-game purchases.
Microsoft previously ended its iOS preview for xCloud, and explained it had no plans to bring the service to Apple’s devices. The company said it is “committed to finding a path to bring cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to the iOS platform,” but that Apple’s policies were standing in the way. As of now, xCloud is only planned to release on Android devices.
This all comes as Apple is locked in a high-stakes legal battle against Fortnite developer Epic Games, over whether the company can offer its own App Store and direct in-app purchases.
Apple has its own game subscription service, Apple Arcade, which offers all-you-can-eat access to roughly 100 mobile games, many as timed exclusives.
GameSpot has reached out to Microsoft and Apple for comment.
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