Apple updates App Store review guidelines to allow streaming game services

Well, that was pretty quick, all things considered. Apple has updated its App Store review guidelines to now allow for streaming game services. But there’s a catch.

What started as a hopeful dream back in February, eventually turned into a nightmare. Microsoft welcomed its cloud gaming service, xCloud, onto Android earlier this year, but iOS was not include. The reason? Apple doesn’t allow for game streaming services in the App Store. But that’s actually changing now, as Apple has updated its review guidelines for the digital storefront.

In the new review guidelines, Apple is making tweaks to account for some changes coming in iOS 14. However, the most important change revolves around streaming game services. Technically, Apple is now going to allow these streaming services be made available in the App Store. But there are some pretty big caveats:

  • 4.9 Streaming gamesStreaming games are permitted so long as they adhere to all guidelines — for example, each game update must be submitted for review, developers must provide appropriate metadata for search, games must use in-app purchase to unlock features or functionality, etc. Of course, there is always the open Internet and web browser apps to reach all users outside of the App Store.
    • 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.

There are a variety of other changes included in the updated App Store review guidelines. We’re not going to break down all of them, but here’s a quick list of some of the other noteworthy changes:

  • Extensions, widgets, App Clips, and notifications must be directly related to the functionality of the app. App Clips are not allowed to show any advertisements, either.
  • Apps that offer realtime person-to-person experiences –think live tutoring– can now use various purchase methods other than in-app purchases.
  • All apps and games must be transparent with what they offer. Meaning, all apps and games cannot hide, not document, or hide features. All app functionality must be clear to the end user. (This appears to be a direct response to Epic Games, which, in August, added a direct payment option to its Fortnite game. This has led to a major legal battle.)

Go check out the changes for the review guidelines if you’re interested in that sort of thing. But it looks like Apple heard the complaints, and now the company is actually willing to make some necessary changes.

Of course, the question is whether or not companies like Microsoft will actually follow suit. The caveats associated with game streaming services are pretty big after all. Microsoft’s xCloud, for instance, has over 100 games available to stream. Will the company actually go through the work in submitting every one of these titles, along with all the new content, to get xCloud on iOS devices?

What do you think? Will we get to see xCloud on iOS devices now?