One of the most appealing parts of the rise of game streaming services like GeForce Now and Xbox Game Pass is making full-power PC and console games available on your phone or tablet. Assuming, of course, that the people making said phone or tablet don’t throw up an artificial roadblock. Apple has been doing just that for years, shutting down game streaming services that want to release dedicated apps in the App Store. But apparently that policy has just been changed.
According to an update to Apple’s iOS and iPadOS developer portal yesterday, game streaming services are now allowed, though they’ll be subject to the same scrutiny as every other app on the App Store.
“Today, Apple is introducing new options for how apps globally can deliver in-app experiences to users, including streaming games and mini-programs. Developers can now submit a single app with the capability to stream all of the games offered in their catalog.”
This is basically a 180 on Apple’s policy since 2020, when the company repeatedly rejected Microsoft and other applicants who wanted to submit apps that could stream high-powered games from remote servers or consoles to the iPhone and iPad. Internal emails, revealed in a court case, show that Apple considered game streaming applications as a way to load multiple games onto the platform without each title being reviewed as a separate app, as is the norm for the 1.8 million applications presented to iOS users.
That was Apple’s official line, anyway. Others suspected that it might simply be a red herring, with the company’s true intent being the protection of the iPhone’s lucrative gaming ecosystem. Various methods around this have been made, including playing games through a browser, but dedicated game streaming apps have been notably absent before now.
Apple’s policy seemed to have a few holes in it. Media streaming services like Netflix, HBO Max, and even Apple’s own AppleTV+ were allowed to stream movies and TV with violent and sexual content that wouldn’t be allowed in singular App Store apps. And Apple’s mobile competitor Google has no problem with streaming game services on Android’s Google Play Store. (The fact that Google was offering its own since-shuttered game streaming service, Stadia, probably didn’t hurt.) Apple also allows more limited local streaming games, like PlayStation Remote Play, which can stream almost any PlayStation game from a console on a home network.
The reversal of Apple’s policy comes at a tumultuous time for the company, as an anti-trust ruling in the European Union is forcing it to open up the iPhone and iPad to third-party app stores for the first time. This is further fallout from the legal fight started by Epic Games, as it seeks to offer players a way to play Fortnite and other mobile games without sharing a slice of in-app purchase revenue with Apple and Google. Epic is already making plans to bring the popular battle royale shooter back to iOS for the first time since 2021.