Apple revises App Store guidelines affecting streaming services

Apple has changed some of its App Store guidelines in relation to game streaming services, free email apps and apps offering online classes. It comes after the company was involved in multiple controversies, including one with Hey and the ongoing fight with Epic Games.

Game streaming services such as Google’s Stadia or Microsoft xCloud are now allowed within the App Store, but have to abide by some strict regulations. All games and apps available on the services must be downloadable from the App Store (as a separate app, per say) and updates to them must be submitted to App Review before it can be streamed.

This would mean companies can offer a single catalogue app linking to downloadable games in the App Store but that they cannot build one app containing multiple streamable games or apps. Any in-app purchases within these will also be subject to Apple’s 30 per cent cut.

Streaming games are permitted so long as they adhere to all guidelines — for example, each game update must be submitted for review, developers must provide appropriate metadata for search, games must use in-app purchase to unlock features or functionality, etc. Of course, there is always the open Internet and web browser apps to reach all users outside of the App Store.

4.9.1 Each streaming game must be submitted to the App Store as an individual app so that it has an App Store product page, appears in charts and search, has user ratings and review, can be managed with ScreenTime and other parental control apps, appears on the user’s device, etc.

4.9.2 Streaming game services may offer a catalog app on the App Store to help users sign up for the service and find the games on the App Store, provided that the app adheres to all guidelines, including offering users the option to pay for a subscription with in-app purchase and use Sign in with Apple. All the games included in the catalog app must link to an individual App Store product page

— App Review

One-to-one tutor or fitness sessions no longer have to be billed through the App Store, with Apple taking its 30% cut. This means clients can pay a tutor or fitness instructor/teacher through a form of payment completely separate from the App Store. The new rule doesn’t apply to “one-to-few or one-to-many services” – these require in-app purchases.

Free email apps, web hosting, cloud storage and VOIP services are now exempt from using Apple’s in-app purchase system for subscriptions. However, they cannot offer purchases in the app (it has to be elsewhere) and cannot display an alert directing users to another platform to make a purchase.

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Ben Ward

Senior Editor, discussing everything Apple and supporting other writers and members of Apple TLD's team of volunteers.

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