Apple Changes Course on Cloud Gaming Services

Halo Reach Credit: Microsoft
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It’s a big day for the App Store as Apple has announced a sweeping set of new policy changes. While the most significant of these will only apply to folks in Europe, one big change coming worldwide should make gamers — and game publishers — very happy.

Starting in March, Apple will be forced to comply with the European Union’s (EU) Digital Markets Act, opening up alternative app marketplaces in the 27 EU member countries. It’s not quite the full sideloading many had hoped for, but it’s still a positive step toward a more open app ecosystem.

However, while that will only apply in the EU, Apple has blown the doors open worldwide in another area where it’s previously been very intransigent: Cloud Gaming Services.

While it’s faded out of the public consciousness in recent years, Apple fought a hard battle against these gaming services in 2020, largely sticking to its longstanding App Store policies that prohibited apps-within-an-app.

Since most cloud gaming services rely on a single app that provides access to multiple games that are streamed over an internet connection, services like Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass have been non-starters on the App Store.

Instead, Apple insisted that gaming subscription services would have to publish each game on the App Store as an individual app that goes through Apple’s standard App Review process. It relaxed those rules very slightly to allow for “thin client” apps that could stream the games from the cloud and catalog apps to help users discover titles and manage their subscription to a gaming package.

Nevertheless, Microsoft and others weren’t impressed. Instead of taking Apple up on its magnanimous offer, it opted to deploy it through the browser instead — as did the rest of the usual suspects.

Apple Concedes to Game Streaming

In a surprising turnaround, Apple has thrown in the towel, effectively removing all the restrictions that it previously had preventing game streaming services on the App Store.

In a developer announcement today, the company opened the doors almost entirely to “streaming games and mini-programs,” adding that “Developers can now submit a single app with the capability to stream all of the games offered in their catalog.”

Naturally, Apple is spinning its concession in the most positive way possible, which makes it sound even more unbelievable that it took the company this long to see the light.

The changes Apple is announcing reflect feedback from Apple’s developer community and is consistent with the App Store’s mission to provide a trusted place for users to find apps they love and developers everywhere with new capabilities to grow their businesses.


This new policy not only opens the door to cloud gaming services but also allows for things like chatbots and plug-ins to be distributed, which will also naturally be able to use Apple’s in-app purchasing system to offer paid digital content.

There are still a few conditions, of course, but none of them seem particularly onerous. Chief among them is that every “experience” within an app must still adhere to the App Store’s rules, and the main app that gets published on the App Store will have to carry an age rating that matches the highest age-rated content in the app.

Hopefully, these changes will be enough to encourage Microsoft, Nvidia, and others to publish their respective cloud gaming services as native apps on the App Store, giving iPhone and iPad users a better experience than what Safari-based games can provide.

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