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Apple Won’t Allow Cloud Gaming like xCloud and Stadia on iOS

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Complaints about the Apple App Store are as old as the App Store itself, but that doesn’t make the latest development any more aggravating for gamers. Despite extensive beta testing, it looks like Microsoft will be unable to launch its xCloud gaming service on iOS, and that means the prospects for Google’s Stadia and Nvidia GeForce Now aren’t any better. 

Cloud gaming has seemed to be just around the corner for the last decade, but we might actually be on the way now. Internet access is fast enough that you can render games on a remote server and stream the video to phones, TVs, laptops, and other devices without too much lag. I’ve spent a fair amount of time playing Google Stadia, and it works surprisingly well — unless you have an iPhone. None of these services have launched on iOS, and now we know why. 

Apple has issued a statement about xCloud, but we can assume other cloud gaming options are facing similar issues. According to Apple, it has no objections to cloud gaming in principle. However, it will only allow the likes of xCloud if the company agrees to compete on a “level playing field” with native app developers. That means each individual game needs to be submitted for review, and they need to appear separately in the App Store charts and search. 

Obviously, these are near-impossibilities for a cloud gaming service. There’s little chance a full PC or Xbox game would pass Apple’s review process, and it would take ages to get approval for the dozens of titles these services currently offer. Listing all those games outside of the streaming client would also be a confusing mess for users. 

xCloud streaming Forza to an Android device in an MS demo.

Apple seems to be making a distinction between cloud games and local streaming services like Steam Link. Apple did initially block Steam Link when it launched last year, but Valve appealed and was able to get its app approved on the basis that it was essentially a remote desktop client. xCloud, Stadia, and the rest seem to be in a much tighter spot. 

At the same time, cloud gaming doesn’t look to be going away this time. The only thing likely to move Apple is its own user base. If a lack of cloud gaming makes the iPhone look less competitive, the company might suddenly reconsider. For that to happen, gamers would have to view cloud gaming as an important enough feature to drive smartphone purchases — and it’s not clear if that will ever actually happen. 

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