Facebook and Microsoft today condemn Apple’s App Store guidelines. The social media company launches its Facebook gaming app for iOS – mostly an app that streamer uses to play video games – but had to remove the app’s mini-game feature to pass Apple’s strict App Store approval process. Facebook is not happy about the compromise.
“Unfortunately, we had to completely remove the gameplay features to get Apple approval for the standalone Facebook gaming app, which means iOS users have a worse experience than Android users,” said Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating Officer from Facebook, in a press release The edge. “We continue to focus on building communities for the more than 380 million people who play games on Facebook every month, regardless of whether or not Apple allows it in a standalone app.”
According to Facebook, the Facebook gaming app has been repeatedly rejected by Apple in the past few months. According to the company, Apple cited App Store Guideline 4.7 to justify the rejections, claiming the main purpose of the Facebook gaming app is to play games. Facebook claims to have shared usage data from its Android Facebook gaming app, showing that 95 percent of its activities watch streams. However, this hasn’t changed anything about Apple’s stance.
Apple already presented an appointment procedure for such situations at WWDC in June. However, Facebook tried to do this and did not convince Apple to override its decision. “We even appealed against the policy as part of the new app review process announced at WWDC,” said a Facebook spokesman. “We did not get an answer.”
Facebook was now forced to give up games and remove them entirely from the standalone app that starts on iOS today. The Facebook Gaming app is mainly used for watching game streams, much like Twitch is for both iOS and Android. On Android, however, the app also includes a number of mini-games from Facebook’s Instant Games platform. Apple won’t allow that.
This is also not the first time Facebook has encountered problems with the App Store. “Even in the main Facebook app and Messenger, we’ve been forced to bury instant games on iOS for years,” said Vivek Sharma, head of Facebook Gaming, in a statement The edge. “This is a common pain across the gaming industry that ultimately hurts gamers and developers, and significantly hinders innovation on mobile devices for other types of formats such as cloud gaming.”
Apple is increasingly criticized by competitors and the gaming industry to ease its app store restrictions. Microsoft had to stop its xCloud iOS tests earlier this week after the App Store guidelines had prevented the company from launching the app for months. Microsoft made the unusual decision yesterday to condemn Apple, saying, “Apple is the only all-purpose platform denying consumers of cloud games and game subscriptions like Xbox Game Pass.”
Apple has defended its decision to block cloud gaming services like xCloud, Stadia and GeForce Now from the App Store. “Our customers enjoy great apps and games from millions of developers, and game services can be launched from the App Store as long as they follow the same guidelines that apply to all developers, including custom game submission for review and graphing Search, ”said an Apple spokesman in a statement yesterday.
Apple’s argument is that the company cannot individually review games offered on streaming services, but it doesn’t seem to have the same problems with services like Netflix or YouTube, which have millions of videos, TV shows, and movies on Apple Stream iOS devices that Apple can’t possibly check.
Apple’s latest feeble apology for the App Store comes just months after the company was embroiled in a fierce battle over the new Hey Email app. Apple eventually approved the app after the initial opposition was widely condemned by lawmakers and developers. Apple is part of a number of US technology companies currently exposed to potential antitrust actions. The EU has also launched a formal antitrust investigation into Apple’s app store and Apple Pay practices. With Microsoft and Facebook openly criticizing Apple, the company will have even more questions about its App Store policies in the coming months.