Microsoft's xCloud and Google Stadia are new kinds of game streaming services that let you play console games on-the-go, but so far they've not been permitted on iOS. Apple today updated its App Store rules to allow those services, but there's a catch.
Apple's new App Store guidelines explicitly say that game streaming services like xCloud and Stadia are allowed (via CNBC). However, Apple says that each individual game on these services must be submitted for review as an individual app so that it has an App Store product page, and each game update must be submitted for review, too.
"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," Apple's new guidelines explain.
Apple also says that streaming game services can offer a catalog app on the App Store to help users sign up for the service and find games on the App Store. However, that app must adhere to Apple's guidelines, too, including allowing users to pay for a subscription with an in-app purchase (which Apple would get a 30% cut of) and use Sign in with Apple. All games must link to an individual App Store product page, too.
Last month, Apple said that game streaming services weren't allowed on the App Store because it would need to review each individual game offered through the service. So this update to the App Store guidelines is an improvement for game streaming services in that sense.
Neither Microsoft nor Google have commented on these App Store rule changes, but it seems unlikely that they'll put xCloud and Stadia on iOS even with these new guidelines. Submitting each game to Apple for approval and then again for each update would be a lot of extra work for Microsoft and Google: xCloud offers more than 100 games to stream, and Google said at the start of this year that there would be more than 120 games coming to Stadia in 2020.
UPDATE: In response to Apple's updated App Store guidelines, Microsoft has issued a statement saying that "this remains a bad experience for customers." Here's the company's full statement to The Verge:
“This remains a bad experience for customers. Gamers want to jump directly into a game from their curated catalog within one app just like they do with movies or songs, and not be forced to download over 100 apps to play individual games from the cloud. We’re committed to putting gamers at the center of everything we do, and providing a great experience is core to that mission.”