Apple revised its App Store guidelines on Friday ahead of the release of iOS 14, the latest version of the iPhone operating system, slated for later this month.
Apple employees use these guidelines to approve or deny apps and updates on the App Store. These rules have come under close scrutiny in recent weeks by app makers who argue that the iPhone maker has too much control over what software runs on iPhones and how Apple takes part of the payments from those apps. Notably, Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, is in a bitter legal battle with Apple over many of its guidelines, including its obligation to use in-app purchases for digital products. Last month, Apple removed Fortnite from its app store.
A major update on Friday concerns game streaming services. Microsoft and Facebook have publicly stated in recent months that Apple̵
Apple now says that game streaming services, such as Google Stadia and Microsoft xCloud, are explicitly allowed. But there are conditions: the games offered in the service must be downloaded directly from the App Store, not from an all-in-one app. App makers can release a so-called “catalog app” that links to other games in the service, but each game will need to be a single app.
Apple’s rules state that if a streaming game service has 100 games, each of these games will need an individual App Store listing and developer relationship with Apple. Individual games also need to have some basic functionality when downloaded. All games and stores must offer in-app purchases using Apple’s payment processing system, under which Apple usually takes 30% of the revenue.
The rules underscore the tension between Apple’s control over its platform, which is said to be for both safety and security reasons, and emerging gaming services considered by many to be the future of the gaming industry. Game streaming services want to act as a platform for game creators, such as approving individual games and deciding which games to offer, but Apple wants streaming services to act more like a package of games and says that will have to review every single game.
Apple doesn’t have a cloud gaming service, but they do sell an iOS game subscription package called Apple Arcade.
Another change relates to in-person lessons purchased within an iPhone app. This spring, in the midst of the pandemic, several companies that previously allowed users to book products in person, such as Classpass, started offering virtual lessons. Apple’s rules previously stated that virtual classrooms were required to use Apple’s in-app payment process.
Apple’s new guidelines state that virtual one-on-one classes, such as fitness training, can bypass Apple for payment, but classes where an instructor teaches more to a class with more people will still require apps to use. in-app purchases from Apple.
Apple also addressed an issue raised by companies like WordPress and Hey and eased the requirement for free apps to use in-app purchases.
A complete log of changes from the App Store is available on the Apple website.