Apple isn't backing down from a position on game streaming services that appears to be the major barrier preventing the launch of Google Stadia and Microsoft's Project xCloud on iOS devices. Instead, Apple is doubling down on requirements to have any game streaming service submit each individual title for review and separate listings in the App Store, a process Microsoft strongly opposes.
TechCrunch picked up on the new wording specific to streaming game services after Apple released its latest App Store Review Guidelines earlier today. Stadia or Xbox's cloud streaming service as we know them are effectively not allowed under Apple's guidelines. Instead, Google or Microsoft could offer apps named for the services as "catalog apps," but each and every game available on the services would need to go through Apple's review process separately, appear as separate listings in App Store searches, and so on.
This is in line with the statement Apple gave in August as to why Microsoft isn't bringing Xbox streaming to the App Store at the same time it is on Android devices. Microsoft then shot back with a statement given to Gizmodo, where it asserted that Apple's approach is a barrier to cloud gaming and adds that each title in its service already goes through independent, trusted review:
Apple stands alone as the only general purpose platform to deny consumers from cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass. And it consistently treats gaming apps differently, applying more lenient rules to non-gaming apps even when they include interactive content. All games available in the Xbox Game Pass catalog are rated for content by independent industry ratings bodies such as the ESRB and regional equivalents.
In practice, Apple wants to treat any game on a service like Stadia's or Xbox's like it's any other app on the App Store, even if full functionality requires a subscription to the service. Setting aside the added costs of individual review and submission as well as the 30% cut Apple would earn on all in-app purchases, this would have the effect of breaking apart the whole idea of launching any title from a catalog of streaming games from a single app.
Meanwhile, Apple's continuing its legal fight with Epic Games over the App Store's 30% fees, which Microsoft filed a statement of support favoring Epic for late last month. Epic has claimed that one of its aims in taking on the App Store policies is to see Apple open up iOS to third-party application launchers. If that happens, Microsoft and Google would likely be able to launch hubs for Xbox and Stadia streaming on iOS that aren't subject to Apple's burdensome review requirements—and, if Apple's standard fees on those hubs were out of the question, Apple would stand to lose out on potential revenue unless it changed course and let Microsoft, Google, and whoever else launches a game streaming service run them through App Store.