Why Is Apple Dropping the Ball on Cloud Gaming?

Cloud Gaming… It’s kind of where things are going. Consoles are great but being able to seamlessly pick up your game and keep playing on other devices makes them even greater.

Google has Stadia, which has been a fantastic cloud gaming experience so far, especially when it can be used on Chromecast, Android devices and from the browser.

Microsoft has xCloud which was bundled into their Gamepass Ultimate which lets you take selected included games you use via Gamepass on your xbox to your Android devices.

Nvidia has GeForce Now, which is one of the first cloud gaming platforms.

Amazon even has their cloud gaming platform Luna that is starting to come out.

And Apple?

Apple has Apple Arcade, which when it was announced, some Apple fans said would blow Stadia out of the water, but since Apple Arcade is really just a pass to play exclusive games via the app store. Google even has this as their Play Pass.

Notice I mentioned Android devices and not iOS devices?Apple gets weird with their cloud gaming rules. Really weird.

According to Apple, the primary reason why it wouldn’t allow Stadia, Gamepass, and GeForce Now into the App Store is this: its App Store rules require developers to submit each and every game individually so they can be reviewed and listed as apps in Apple’s App Store. If they didn’t want to do that, then they were out.

Back in September, Apple added these rules:

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.

“What’s so wrong with listing cloud games on the App Store,” you might wonder? Well, it’s a whole lot of work with little benefit for Microsoft and Google, to start.

They have to individually submit every single game, create App Store pages for each one, and hand the customer relationship to Apple — instead of just beaming their ready-made platform into an iOS device the same way they beam it into an Android device right now.

Oh, and then there’s rule 3.1.2(a):

3.1.2(a): 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.

Ok, let’s start with “downloaded directly from the App Store”,  Apple doesn’t mean that games have to run locally on the iPhone — they can still be thin-client cloud games harnessing the power of remote servers to produce AAA graphics.

We have seen this already with Square Enix using a service called G-cluster to wrap a thin-client cloud game like Final Fantasy XIII on the App Store

But the point of cloud gaming is that you want to jump directly into a game within one app, like they do with movies or songs and not have to download over 100 apps to play different games from the cloud.

Why all the hate on cloud gaming from Apple?

Why doesn’t Apple require other subscription services to do this? Netflix? Prime? Youtube? Spotify? Twitch?  Why aren’t they under the same restrictions as gaming?

I guess this is getting into rant territory but really, what is with the hate?