Apple Calls The Shots
In April this year, Facebook announced its intended release of the Facebook Gaming App. The app would allow users to watch and share live gameplay streams, participate in gaming communities and play games like Words With Friends within it. Just another category for the social media giant to add to its expanding catalogue of apps. Essentially, they’ve created a one stop shop for all things gaming – streaming, playing and connecting.
However, after six months of attempts, Facebook could not get Apple to approve the new app until they removed all playable games from the submission entirely. Only then was it accepted. By contrast, the app was approved by Google Play Store last month, including the games offered from Facebook’s Instant Games platform.
The gaming world is big business, and just like nearly every other industry, it’s heading in a mobile-first direction. Mobile gaming is responsible for most of the revenue in the gaming world, so it’s unsurprising that Facebook is trying to tap into this. It’s no surprise, either, that Apple wants to hoard the share of the pie.
Apple’s Strict Guidelines to Protect Its Self Interest
Apple has strict rules that prohibit any app that’s ‘main purpose’ is to distribute software, e.g. games. This makes sense when you realise that Apple’s highest source of App Store revenue is games, right? It’s been echoed many times that Apple blocks game services that offer competition for their own products.
Ultimately, Facebook may be the world’s largest social network and the owner of some of the biggest apps out there, but it’s still heavily reliant on Apple. Apple is responsible for distributing those apps to a large chunk of Facebook’s user base. It seems like Apple knows it has this power and isn’t afraid to exercise it for its own benefit.
After all, it’s abundantly clear that the rules it applies to gaming services don’t extend to other categories. Apple says that games must be submitted for individual review, hence why the original Facebook Gaming App was rejected, and yet video streaming apps don’t have to offer each documentary, film or TV show for individual review. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that one competes with the Apple Arcade and one is not in direct competition with any Apple products.
Microsoft Drops Apple Testing: Facebook Isn’t The Only App Suffering
Apple is building up a negative rapport in this area, since Microsoft faced a similar issue in the same week too. Microsoft will only be releasing its xCloud game streaming app on Android devices due to also not passing the strict Apple guidelines.
What’s more, Facebook Gaming appealed the guideline to Apple (this new app review process was announced at WWDC20) and heard nothing back, leading them to ask their Twitter followers whether they’d been ‘ghosted’? If mobile giants as big as Facebook can’t even garner enough respect from Apple to receive a response, this offers little hope for smaller developers hoping to bring their cloud game streaming apps to iOS users.
What will be next? And will Apple be able to continuously get away with rejecting apps that compete with their own products in the name of self interest?