Apple App Store Guidelines Will Not Allow Cloud Gaming Apps

August 08, 2020

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Apple has a strict set of App Store Guidelines that developers must follow in order to avoid being removed. Recently, it was announced that the guidelines will prevent developers from selling cloud gaming apps on the App Store. This could have an impact on app marketing, development and App Store Optimization.

Cloud Gaming Apps on iOS

Cloud gaming is growing in demand thanks to technology like Google’s Stadia and Microsoft’s xCloud. Yet they may be out of reach for iOS users, as according to Apple, cloud gaming apps will not be allowed on the App Store due to their inability to review every game available through the service.

Apple explained:

The App Store was created to be a safe and trusted place for customers to discover and download apps, and a great business opportunity for all developers. Before they go on our store, all apps are reviewed against the same set of guidelines that are intended to protect customers and provide a fair and level playing field to developers.

This is notably different from how Apple treats video streaming apps. Users can download an app like Netflix without Apple needing to review all the available content, but cloud gaming apps are held to a higher standard. This comes in at a time when Apple is already dealing with claims of antitrust behavior and could be seen as a way to keep competing games off their platform.

Additionally, as noted by The Verge, cloud gaming apps also risk violating Section 4.2.7 of the App Store policy. The policy states that “host device and client must be connected on a local and LAN-based network” and cannot be a “thin client for a cloud-based app.” That would disqualify most cloud gaming apps. 

While Apple does offer the Apple Arcade subscription service, each Arcade game is commissioned by Apple and reviewed before being added to the Arcade catalogue.

What Apps Are Impacted

While cloud gaming apps are still relatively new and emerging, there is a growing demand for cross-console games and the accessibility that cloud gaming enables. It’s a potentially valuable market for mobile app developers.

While Microsoft had been testing its xCloud gaming platform on iOS, it has recently ended tests due to the App Store policies. In a statement from Microsoft, the company expressed hopes that it will find a way to offer cloud gaming over iOS eventually.

We are committed to finding a path to bring cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to the iOS platform. We believe that the customer should be at the heart of the gaming experience and gamers tell us they want to play, connect, and share anywhere, no matter where they are.

App Store Guidelines

Similarly, Google Stadia will not be allowed on the App Store. While Stadia is a Google product, being able to offer the subscription to iOS users would still allow it to reach a wider audience, even if Apple would take a 30% cut of the proceeds.

App Store Guidelines

Facebook has launched its Facebook Gaming iOS app, but with fewer features than its Google Play version. While Facebook states that 95% of activity on the app is used for watching streams rather than playing games, the games still had to be removed from the app before it was allowed.

App Development & ASO

This then leaves app and mobile game developers with a conundrum. Can they still develop games for a cloud gaming service and have them available in the app stores?

While cloud gaming apps will not be allowed on the Apple App Store, they can still be sold through the Google Play Store. Cloud gaming is a relatively new space, but developers will have to compete with industry giants like Google, Facebook and Microsoft. In order to compete, the apps will need to be optimized with ASO best practices, including:

  • Screenshots and videos designed to highlight the best features of the games
  • Keyword optimization to help the app appear near the top of search results for relevant terms
  • Descriptions written to quickly and clearly highlight the values of the app

The mobile gaming space is a competitive market, so developers will need to optimize properly if they want to succeed.

Whether or not developers can provide their games through a cloud streaming service and as a standalone mobile game on the Apple App Store will depend on their contracts with the streaming platform. If it is allowed, then they can still reach users on the app stores, although to a different capacity than via streaming.

In cases where it is offered as a standalone game, the individual mobile games will also have to be optimized. ASO for mobile games can help developers reach their audience by targeting the right keywords and designing optimized creative sets.

Without a cloud gaming platform to provide the game a boost, it will have to stand out on its own in the store through search optimization, paid marketing, and similar ASO best practices. This is important for any app or game trying to compete on the app stores.

Whether an app is a cloud gaming platform or a standalone game, optimization will make a major difference. While Apple’s decision to not allow cloud gaming platforms may impact the competitive landscape on each store, ASO is always essential.

Want to learn more about App Store Optimization? Contact Gummicube and we’ll help get your strategy started.

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