The new rules for the Apple App Store will affect Google Stadia and Microsoft xCloud

The new rules for the Apple App Store will affect Google Stadia and Microsoft xCloud

Apple revised its App Store guidelines on Friday ahead of the release of iOS 14, the latest version of the iPhone operating system, expected later this month.

Apple employees use these guidelines to approve or reject apps and updates on the App Store. These rules have come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks from app makers who argue that the iPhone maker has a lot of control over what programs run on iPhones and how Apple cuts payments from these apps. In particular, Epic Games, the manufacturer of Fortnite, is locked in a bitter legal battle with Apple over many of its guidelines, including its requirement to use in-app purchases for digital products. Apple removed Fortnite from its app store last month.

One of the major updates on Friday concerns game streaming services. Microsoft and Facebook have said publicly in recent months that Apple’s rules have restricted what their gaming apps can do on iPhones and iPads. Microsoft’s xCloud service is not available on iOS, and the Facebook Games app lacks games on iPhones.

Apple now says game-streaming services, such as Google Stadia and Microsoft xCloud, are explicitly permitted. But there are conditions: the games offered in the service must be downloaded directly from the App Store, not from the all-in-one app. Application makers are permitted to release a so-called “catalog application” that links to other games in the service, but each game must be an individual application.

Apple’s rules mean that if a game streaming service contains 100 games, each of those games will need an individual app store listing as well as a developer relationship with Apple. Single games should also have some basic functions when you download them. All games and stores need to offer an in-app purchase using Apple’s payment processing system, under which Apple typically receives 30% of the revenue.

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The rules underscore the tension between Apple’s control of its platform, which it says is for safety and security reasons, and emerging gaming services that many consider the future of the gaming industry. Game streaming services want to act as a platform for game makers, like approving individual games and deciding which games to offer, but Apple wants streaming services to work like a group of games and says it will need to review each game separately.

Apple does not have a cloud gaming service, but it does sell a subscription package of iOS games called Apple Arcade.

Another change concerns personal chapters purchased within the iPhone app. This spring, amid the pandemic, several companies that previously enabled users to book personal products, such as Classpass, began offering virtual lessons. Apple rules previously mentioned that virtual classes are required to use Apple’s in-app payment process.

New Apple guidelines state that individual virtual classes, such as fitness training, can bypass Apple for payment, but classes where one teacher teaches more classes with multiple people will still require apps to use Apple’s in-app purchases.

Apple also addressed an issue raised by companies like WordPress and Hey, and eased the requirements for free apps to use in-app purchases.

A complete record of App Store changes is available on the Apple website.

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