Facebook recently introduced an app that is essentially built around mobile gaming. The Facebook gaming app focuses on smartphone users who enjoy watching their favourite streamers play instant games and take part in mini gaming groups. However, the mini-game feature is not included in Apple iOS, the reason being Apple’s strict App Store approval process.
“Unfortunately, we had to remove gameplay functionality entirely in order to get Apple’s approval on the standalone Facebook Gaming app – meaning iOS users have an inferior experience to those using Android,” said Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer. “We’re staying focused on building communities for the more than 380 million people who play games on Facebook every month – whether Apple allows it in a standalone app or not.”
Facebook disclosed that the gaming app has been rejected numerous times, quoting the App Store guideline 4.7 to justify the dismissals. Apple says that the primary purpose of the app is to play games, despite the statistics show otherwise. Facebook says the company shared user data from its Android Facebook Gaming app that recorded, 95 percent of activity is watching streams, but this didn’t affect Apple’s stand.
Facebook even tried the appeal process developed back in June at Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), but could not convince Apple to change its decision.
“We appealed the guideline under the new app review process announced at WWDC,” says a Facebook spokesperson. “We did not receive a response.”
This isn’t the first time that Facebook came across App Store problems. “Even on the main Facebook app and Messenger, we’ve been forced to bury Instant Games for years on iOS,” explains Facebook Gaming chief Vivek Sharma. “This is shared pain across the games industry, which ultimately hurts players and devs and severely hamstrings innovation on mobile for other types of formats, like cloud gaming.”
In fact, Microsoft was forced to cut its xCloud iOS testing earlier this week. App Store policies have been preventing the company from launching the app for months.
“Our testing period for the Project xCloud preview app for iOS has expired. Unfortunately, we do not have a path to bring our vision of cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to gamers on iOS via the Apple App Store,” says a Microsoft spokesperson.
Microsoft says Apple is denying the public the benefits of such technology through unfair enforcement of its App Store rules.
“Apple stands alone as the only general-purpose platform to deny consumers from cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass.”
Apple is facing growing criticism from rivals and the gaming industry to loosen its App Store restrictions.
Although, Apple has justified its decision to block cloud gaming services like xCloud, Stadia, and GeForce Now from the App Store saying, “Our customers enjoy great apps and games from millions of developers, and gaming services can absolutely launch on the App Store as long as they follow the same set of guidelines applicable to all developers, including submitting games individually for review, and appearing in charts and search,” said an Apple spokesperson.
Apple argues, that the company cannot individually review all the integrated games offered on the streaming services. The only loophole in the explanation is, the logic doesn’t seem to apply to other streaming services like Netflix or Youtube. In fact, these applications stream millions of videos, TV shows, and movies to Apple’s iOS devices that Apple can’t possibly review.
Although, last week in the antitrust meeting when congressmen asked questions regarding the anti-competitive strategies adopted by Apple and their strict App Store Policies, Apple CEO, Tim Cook brushed off the questions saying the company does not indulge in any such activities.
Rep. Thompson bombarded Cook with questions about Apple’s controversial handling of the App Store review process.
“Throughout our investigation, we’ve heard concerns that rules governing the App Store review process are not available to app developers,” Thompson said. “The rules are made up as you go. They are arbitrarily interpreted and enforced, and are subject to change whenever Apple sees fit to change and developers have no choice but to go along with the changes, or they must leave the App Store. That’s an enormous amount of power.”
Apple was also probed about the discrimination accusation, which says developers with similar apps are not treated equally. To which Cook replied that we treat every developer equally, and have transparent rules.
But obviously, that does not seem to be the case here.