Apple has made rule changes to its App Store guidelines, which could have a big impact on Microsoft and Google’s plans to offer cloud gaming services. The rule changes appear more favorable to Microsoft xCloud and Google Stadia, but Microsoft has already issued a statement saying the requirements make for “a bad experience for customers.”
Apple’s new guidelines explicitly say that game streaming services are allowed. 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 cloud gaming, 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.
“This remains a bad experience for customers,” a Microsoft spokesperson told GameSpot. “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.”
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.
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.