Nvidia, Google, and Microsoft are struggling to reach some the more than one billion iPad and iPhone users out there thanks to Apple's strict rules, Bloomberg reports. The issue goes to a lack of compatibility between game streaming services — which host titles through servers in the cloud — and the App Store, which is notoriously against streaming directly from the cloud. It's a position that pits Apple against developers and doesn't help its defence against antitrust accusations.
Breezy access for Apple Arcade — If you're wondering why Apple Arcade gets to run without any hiccups, that's because the service does not violate the App Store's guidelines. At least, not technically. This excerpt from the store's review process is particularly noteworthy:
You may offer a single subscription that is shared across your own apps and services, but these subscriptions may not extend to third-party apps or services [emphasis ours]. Games offered in a game subscription must be owned or exclusively licensed by the developer (e.g. not part of a game publishing platform). Each game must be downloaded directly from the App Store, must be designed to avoid duplicate payment by a subscriber, and should not disadvantage non-subscriber customers.
For services wanting to act as a conduit for titles from third-party studios or similar, this makes the App Store a non-starter. Another advantage Arcade has over the likes of Stadia, Nvidia, and others is that it isn't a streaming service — users download games and store them locally, so there's no cloud in the mix.
Is this unfair? — On multiple occasions over the years, Apple has unapologetically defended its business model and strict rules and regulations as key to keeping its platform reliable, secure, and open to all. But critics say that these guidelines are arbitrary at best, and deliberately unfair at worst — designed to intentionally favor Apple over its rivals and, consequently, stifle competition rather than promoting it.
In a comment to Bloomberg, independent developer David Barnard summarized the issue as a tense dynamic between Apple and publishers. "There’s a fraught relationship between developers and Apple precisely because of rules like this," Barnard explained. "In some ways, I am incredibly grateful to their marketplace for helping me make millions of dollars I wouldn’t have made without it. On the flip side, them being so heavy handed at times does kill apps and does cause developers to miss out on other potential revenue."
It's understandable for developers to feel more than a little jaded. After all, struggling to reach a billion prospective customers is more than a minor inconvenience, it's potentially ruinous, especially when there aren't any alternative routes to reach those customers.