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Apple opens door to xCloud and Stadia with new App Store guidelines

Apple has revised its App Store guidelines with a key change that could open the door to game streaming services like Microsoft’s xCloud and Google Stadia coming to iPhone and iPad users.

The update follows complaints from Microsoft as well as gamers upset with Apple’s stance, especially with xCloud launching on Android devices as part of Game Pass Ultimate.

The new guidelines make it clear that such services are welcome on the App Store, providing each of the games within are submitted for individual review by Apple and are discoverable and downloadable from the App Store itself.

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That means subscribers won’t be able to directly stream games from within the xCloud or Stadia apps, which kinda defeats the purpose, and means a lot more work for the likes of Microsoft and Google.

It’s similar to how Apple handles its Apple Arcade subscriptions, with users having to download the individual games and then gaining access if their subscription checks out.

In section 3.1.2 (a) of the revised App Store guidelines on Subscriptions, Apple lays the groundwork by saying:

You may offer a single subscription that is shared across your own apps and services. 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.

Section 4.9 offers a dedicated section on streaming games, which goes into more detail on exactly what developers will have to do in order to meet the new guidelines:

Streaming 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.

While this attempts to smooth the path, it means Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Nvidia will have to jump through some serious hoops in order to comply. Will they believe it to be worthwhile?