Apple's block of Xcloud & Stadia game streaming apps is at best consumer-hostile

Posted:
in iPad edited August 2020
Apple's policies have effectively spiked an entire category of gaming apps that are no different from a security, technical, or content review standpoint than controlling a Netflix movie with a game controller.




Microsoft's Xcloud and Google's Stadia are game streaming platforms, coming soon to non-Apple platforms. With both services, instead of a game's code running on the device, the game code is run on a server farm to a user's device, with only H.265 video streaming to the user's device, and the user's inputs sent back to the game's servers across the Internet.

The concept has been tried for a few years, but has only started to get real traction. The concept allows graphically demanding games to be hosted and processed elsewhere, and run on much lesser hardware that would ordinarily be needed.

Using this model of game streaming only requires the user's hardware to decode a H.265 video stream, parse the user's inputs -- and that's all. There are no massive app downloads associated with the gameplay, and no code beyond the host application running on the host device.

Both Xcloud and Stadia have been in testing for a long time. How useful they are to any given gamer depends on internet speed and latency, but for a low monthly fee, a user gets access to an entire array of games -- with this library aspect much like an internet-streaming Apple Arcade, aimed at a different segment of the gaming audience. For instance, Microsoft's flagship Halo franchise is available on Xcloud.





But, despite being originally announced for the Mac by Steve Jobs more than two decades ago, Halo's Master Chief won't be returning to Apple's platform any time soon. Instead, Apple's main rival in the high-end smartphone market, Samsung, has embraced Microsoft's Xcloud.

Back-and-forth between Apple and Microsoft

After a day of heat on social media, Apple made clear why Xcloud wouldn't see release on iOS or iPadOS.

"Our customers enjoy great apps and games from millions of developers, and gaming services can absolutely launch on the App Store as long as they follow the same set of guidelines applicable to all developers including submitting games individually for review and appearing in charts and search, Apple said in a statement.

A few hours later, Microsoft fired back and put the blame for no iOS or iPadOS launch squarely where it belongs -- on Apple's policies.

"Apple stands alone as the only general purpose platform to deny customers from cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass," a Microsoft spokesperson said. "And, it consistently treats gaming apps differently, applying more lenient rules to non-gaming apps even when they include interactive content."

The reasoning behind the rejections and refusals by Apple are clearly spelled out, and have been for about two years. But, the rule has always been arbitrary, and very blatantly anti-competitive.

Apple's ban is a targeted block on game streaming subscription services

Like we mentioned a bit earlier, no code is being downloaded or run on the devices beyond what would be already vetted in the app hosted on the app store. So, there are no security issues induced by third-party code running on a device. Apple uses the third-party downloadable code ban and security concerns to block programming compilers, and emulators from the platform.

Game streaming apps using the H.265 streaming method are fine, though -- assuming you're playing on your own network. There are approved apps allowing users on a home network to stream Steam games from a PC on a user's network, or console games playing locally. Ironically, this method would allow a user to play games from the Xbox Windows Game Pass at home, which has a larger library that the Xcloud service draws from.

Streaming apps for remote PCs across the internet using the same H.265 and controller or keyboard inputs across the internet are also allowed. Shadow, for instance, is a solid subscription service that gives you access to whatever you've stored on a remote high-performance PC in Shadow's data centers.

Netflix also streams video to the iPhone or iPad with H.265 codecs. Yet, Apple doesn't feel the need to review all the content that Netflix, Disney+, CBS All-Access, a few different flavors of HBO, or similar, offer.

To be precise, the Apple ban is very specifically on user-controlled H.265 video from a game streamed across the internet. It doesn't impact the very same games, provided from the very same services, when streamed from a computer that you own or access to an iPhone or iPad.

You just can't play that game on your iPhone or iPad streamed from the cloud.

Anti-trust, and anti-consumer

The current excuse that the content must be vetted by Apple makes no sense, because no other kind of content, be it video, audio, or "print" material, is similarly vetted. There are no potential user security issues, since the only thing the App will do is authenticate logins, display the H.265 game video stream, and send the user's inputs to a remote server. Arbitrary code from outside sources won't be run on the device, so that doesn't fly as an excuse for a ban, should Apple alter course on the ban.

This ban is actively and arbitrarily abusive to consumers who want to play something that isn't an Apple Arcade game, or mobile-first. But, there is more at stake.

Apple's Tim Cook was just on the governmental stand for the first of what is hopefully many testimonials about big tech antitrust behavior. At those hearings, Apple's 30% and 15% App Store cuts were briefly mentioned. Maybe the cuts are too high and maybe they aren't -- and the ban on telling users that they can subscribe outside the app is iffy. On much of this, your point of view very much depends based on which side of the consumer/developer divide you sit on.

In other antitrust issues, it's hard to say that Apple unfairly favors its own services in App Store search, because sometimes it does, and most of the time it doesn't. But, given the wiggly line that Apple has drawn as an acceptable use border for game streaming apps, it's hard to see this ban as anything else than Apple wanting to defend its revenue stream from Apple Arcade and other games.

This ban on Stadia, Xcloud, and any future service like it, is about as clear as it can get. It is clearly targeted at blocking Apple's main competitors. We'll leave the assessment if it is truly an anti-trust matter to the "experts," such as they are.
dewme
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 197
    I agree with this article.  I usually defend Apple's actions, but not this time.  This is anti-consumer.
    calisurfboywilliamlondonInspiredCodemuthuk_vanalingamelijahgOferlkrupp
  • Reply 2 of 197
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member
    Meh. Who cares? If you’re wasting your life playing games, you have your priorities wrong.
    edited August 2020 williamlondonmagman1979F_Kent_Dmacpluspluslkruppomasou
  • Reply 3 of 197
    tylersdadtylersdad Posts: 310member
    Meh. Who cares? If you’re wasting your life playing games, you have your priorities wrong.
    Thank God we have people like you to tell us how we should best use our free time. 
    calisurfboybulk001dysamoriawilliamlondonInspiredCodeflyingdpkiltedgreenSpamSandwichmuthuk_vanalingamelijahg
  • Reply 4 of 197
    MacQcMacQc Posts: 14member

    Apple is not a monopoly and has the right to set their policies. Proof is, xCloud will work with Android.


    So, the choice is clear. If you wish to stream games on your mobile device, you go for Android. Period. 


    Companies have the right not to go in certain areas. Should it be a mistake, it will be their bad. But please, stop this “anti-consumer” nonsense!  


    tmaysmiffy31williamlondonflyingdpmagman1979aderutterF_Kent_DBeatsmdriftmeyermacplusplus
  • Reply 5 of 197
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 6,016member
    First remotely playing games, next it will be apps.  What’s to stop companies from creating remote (I.e. “steamed”) app stores disconnecting Apple’s control and user privacy?

    This is a very slippery slope.  I can understand Apple taking this approach.

    Like others are saying, if you don’t like it move to Android. 


    tmayRayz2016williamlondonflyingdpmagman1979aderutterF_Kent_DmdriftmeyerBeatsmacplusplus
  • Reply 6 of 197
    AF_HittAF_Hitt Posts: 140member
    tylersdad said:
    Meh. Who cares? If you’re wasting your life playing games, you have your priorities wrong.
    Thank God we have people like you to tell us how we should best use our free time. 
    Notice the screen name and the inordinate amount of posts (which is ironic, considering he's claiming other people are wasting their lives) and move on. No sense in engaging with the trolls.
    tylersdadbulk001dysamoriawilliamlondonflyingdpmuthuk_vanalingamelijahgOferCloudTalkinurahara
  • Reply 7 of 197

    Yo spam, I am quite certain that if you listed a few of your hobbies people might make the same determination. Regardless, speaking on the topic at hand in the article, this is an anti consumer move from Apple.


    I just feel that they have no pulse on what is happening in the gaming industry at large. It is quite a shame given the size and impact of the industry (which is substantially larger than film, tv, and music). 


    Apple has had a similar policy to the Steam Link app that allowed you to play PC games on mobile devices via your Local Area Network. Valve (parent company of Steam) originally had issues with Apple for similar reasons but it was resolved a few months later. Apple seriously need a head of gaming as they appear clueless and flailing in all things related to this industry. 


    Nonetheless, the position that Apple is currently taking (requiring approval of all streamed games individually despite them not being locally on device) is tantamount to Apple requiring Netflix to individually submit every film and tv show for approval by Apple before they are allowed to stream on Apple's platform. It is idiotic. I think once they are educated on the topic they will approve the service.


    Furthermore, another possible reason for not allowing this service on Apple devices is that it would wipe the floor with what Apple Arcade has to offer. The ability to play 100+ AAA $60 games for a monthly fee of $15/month is an insane value proposition. Perhaps Apple knows this and understands that they cannot compete with this. 


    Nonetheless I hope Apple comes around.

    dysamoriawilliamlondonInspiredCodemuthuk_vanalingamelijahgOferLoveNotch_n_AirPods
  • Reply 8 of 197
    This article is extremely one sided. Who is to say that big game publishers wouldn't absorb significant numbers of mobile game developers to their own streaming platforms and practically deprive Apple iOS and Mac game stores over night. This is a standalone business model so you bet your ass that big game publishers or even new venture capital wouldn't try this. Not all gaming should work this way, mobile games should run locally so Apple is right and they cant open the flood gates by letting MS or Google do it.
    williamlondonmagman1979aderuttermdriftmeyermacplusplusBeatssvanstromtrackeroz
  • Reply 9 of 197
    red oakred oak Posts: 985member
    Playing games is completely different than watching a one-way streamed video.    How is that not obvious to you? 

    If this is allowed,  developers in all categories will try to create "streamed" versions of their apps to circumvent Apple.  Will be become a shit show 


    tmayRayz2016williamlondonflyingdpmagman1979aderuttermdriftmeyerBeatsmacplusplusdewme
  • Reply 10 of 197
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,561administrator
    This article is extremely one sided. Who is to say that big game publishers wouldn't absorb significant numbers of mobile game developers to their own streaming platforms and practically deprive Apple iOS and Mac game stores over night. This is a standalone business model so you bet your ass that big game publishers or even new venture capital wouldn't try this. Not all gaming should work this way, mobile games should run locally so Apple is right and they cant open the flood gates by letting MS or Google do it.
    I'm glad you agree that Apple is trying to preserve its revenue stream. That's the whole point of the article. If developers choose to throw in with streaming services and get paid by them, instead of Apple paying them, so be it. Maybe Apple will be forced to change things as a result of that competition, which is the whole point of capitalism, is it not?

    In regards to other comments discussing "monopoly," and related to Velasarius' comment as well, a monopoly isn't by itself illegal, nor is it required for anti-trust arguments. All anti-trust needs is illegal and unnecessary blocking or interference with other businesses. That's it.
    edited August 2020 dysamoriawilliamlondonmuthuk_vanalingamOferCloudTalkinLoveNotch_n_AirPodsmariowinco
  • Reply 11 of 197
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 6,498member
    Meh. Who cares? If you’re wasting your life playing games, you have your priorities wrong.
    I'm like you, a complete non gamer but I understand the appeal (addiction even) of them and the importance they have on people's lives. For me, personally, it is like a waste of my time. 

    I wouldn't say their priorities are wrong though.

    I love fishing and many might say that is a waste of valuable time. Sometimes days on end of my life without a catch. 

    But what is a waste of time and what isn't is a very personal thing. I think if you're happy doing something, it's worth it. 
    dysamoriakiltedgreenInspiredCodemuthuk_vanalingamOferGabyuraharaLoveNotch_n_AirPodsFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 12 of 197
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,561administrator
    red oak said:
    Playing games is completely different than watching a one-way streamed video.    How is that not obvious to you? 

    If this is allowed,  developers in all categories will try to create "streamed" versions of their apps to circumvent Apple.  Will be become a shit show 


    From a technical and Apple-visible content review perspective regarding Stadia and Xcloud, it isn't different at all. It's a H.265 stream coming down from a cloud server. What's the difference between Shadow or other over-the-web streaming PCs?

    And, using a controller with Netflix, I can skip around in two dimensions on that content as I see fit.
    edited August 2020 williamlondonmuthuk_vanalingamelijahgOferLoveNotch_n_AirPods
  • Reply 13 of 197
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,561administrator
    sflocal said:
    First remotely playing games, next it will be apps.  What’s to stop companies from creating remote (I.e. “steamed”) app stores disconnecting Apple’s control and user privacy?

    This is a very slippery slope.  I can understand Apple taking this approach.

    Like others are saying, if you don’t like it move to Android. 


    Office already exists as a web-based version. So do many, many other apps.

    From a technical and latency perspective, an app makes more sense for gameplay. This can be circumvented with Xcloud or Stadia with some kind of controller API for Safari in iOS, but I'm not expecting it.
    edited August 2020 kiltedgreenInspiredCodeOfermdriftmeyerLoveNotch_n_AirPods
  • Reply 14 of 197
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,453member
    red oak said:
    Playing games is completely different than watching a one-way streamed video.    How is that not obvious to you? 
    It's different.  It's not completely different.
    dysamoriawilliamlondonkiltedgreenInspiredCodeurahara
  • Reply 15 of 197
    tmaytmay Posts: 5,824member
    This article is extremely one sided. Who is to say that big game publishers wouldn't absorb significant numbers of mobile game developers to their own streaming platforms and practically deprive Apple iOS and Mac game stores over night. This is a standalone business model so you bet your ass that big game publishers or even new venture capital wouldn't try this. Not all gaming should work this way, mobile games should run locally so Apple is right and they cant open the flood gates by letting MS or Google do it.
    I'm glad you agree that Apple is trying to preserve its revenue stream. That's the whole point of the article. If developers choose to throw in with streaming services and get paid by them, instead of Apple paying them, so be it. Maybe Apple will be forced to change things as a result of that competition, which is the whole point of capitalism, is it not?

    In regards to other comments discussing "monopoly." A monopoly isn't by itself illegal, nor is it required for anti-trust arguments. All anti-trust needs is illegal and unnecessary blocking or interference with other businesses. That's it.
    How, exactly, is Apple interfering in other businesses? MS, et al, aren't entitled to run Apple's business.

    You imply that Apple has no corporate sovereignty, and in fact, if Apple is aware of how little gaming will affect their business, streaming or otherwise, shouldn't they have the ability to test their business model in the market against competing business models?

    Unless of course, you have some sort of Minority Report operation that can predetermine success of a particular business model.

    I like Apple's curated approach, and I like that Apple doesn't rush into whatever the fad of the market is. Do you really think that streaming games, affected by latency issues, will be a wonderful experience from the get go?

    Perhaps you can provide a detailed, first person experience with specific hardware and services, to all of us.


    flyingdpmagman1979aderuttermdriftmeyermacplusplusdewmejdb8167trackeroz
  • Reply 16 of 197
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 6,016member
    sflocal said:
    First remotely playing games, next it will be apps.  What’s to stop companies from creating remote (I.e. “steamed”) app stores disconnecting Apple’s control and user privacy?

    This is a very slippery slope.  I can understand Apple taking this approach.

    Like others are saying, if you don’t like it move to Android. 


    Office already exists as a web-based version. So do many, many other apps.

    From a technical and latency perspective, an app makes more sense for gameplay. This can be circumvented with Xcloud or Stadia with some kind of controller API for Safari in iOS, but I'm not expecting it.
    The web-based version is dependent on having an internet connection for it to work, whereas an app will work with or without one.  If Microsoft provided an Internet-only Office365 option, no one would use it.
    tmayflyingdpmagman1979aderuttermacplusplusHeliBum
  • Reply 17 of 197
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,561administrator
    tmay said:
    This article is extremely one sided. Who is to say that big game publishers wouldn't absorb significant numbers of mobile game developers to their own streaming platforms and practically deprive Apple iOS and Mac game stores over night. This is a standalone business model so you bet your ass that big game publishers or even new venture capital wouldn't try this. Not all gaming should work this way, mobile games should run locally so Apple is right and they cant open the flood gates by letting MS or Google do it.
    I'm glad you agree that Apple is trying to preserve its revenue stream. That's the whole point of the article. If developers choose to throw in with streaming services and get paid by them, instead of Apple paying them, so be it. Maybe Apple will be forced to change things as a result of that competition, which is the whole point of capitalism, is it not?

    In regards to other comments discussing "monopoly." A monopoly isn't by itself illegal, nor is it required for anti-trust arguments. All anti-trust needs is illegal and unnecessary blocking or interference with other businesses. That's it.
    How, exactly, is Apple interfering in other businesses? MS, et al, aren't entitled to run Apple's business.

    You imply that Apple has no corporate sovereignty, and in fact, if Apple is aware of how little gaming will affect their business, streaming or otherwise, shouldn't they have the ability to test their business model in the market against competing business models?

    Unless of course, you have some sort of Minority Report operation that can predetermine success of a particular business model.

    I like Apple's curated approach, and I like that Apple doesn't rush into whatever the fad of the market is. Do you really think that streaming games, affected by latency issues, will be a wonderful experience from the get go?

    Perhaps you can provide a detailed, first person experience with specific hardware and services, to all of us.


    I really have no idea what you're asking for in this bolded section, here. If you're asking if we've used Xcloud, we have, and the video is embedded in the post.

    In regards to the "run Apple's business" - I have no idea where you got that from what I said. The monopoly bit in that comment was referring to other people's false assertions that Apple is not a monopoly, so therefore, it is not engaging in anti-trust behavior.
    edited August 2020 InspiredCodeelijahgOferLoveNotch_n_AirPods
  • Reply 18 of 197
    sflocal said:
    First remotely playing games, next it will be apps.  What’s to stop companies from creating remote (I.e. “steamed”) app stores disconnecting Apple’s control and user privacy?

    This is a very slippery slope.  I can understand Apple taking this approach.

    Like others are saying, if you don’t like it move to Android. 


    Webapps exist.  The client is Safari rather than a specific app.
    Oferaderutter
  • Reply 19 of 197
    tmaytmay Posts: 5,824member
    tmay said:
    This article is extremely one sided. Who is to say that big game publishers wouldn't absorb significant numbers of mobile game developers to their own streaming platforms and practically deprive Apple iOS and Mac game stores over night. This is a standalone business model so you bet your ass that big game publishers or even new venture capital wouldn't try this. Not all gaming should work this way, mobile games should run locally so Apple is right and they cant open the flood gates by letting MS or Google do it.
    I'm glad you agree that Apple is trying to preserve its revenue stream. That's the whole point of the article. If developers choose to throw in with streaming services and get paid by them, instead of Apple paying them, so be it. Maybe Apple will be forced to change things as a result of that competition, which is the whole point of capitalism, is it not?

    In regards to other comments discussing "monopoly." A monopoly isn't by itself illegal, nor is it required for anti-trust arguments. All anti-trust needs is illegal and unnecessary blocking or interference with other businesses. That's it.
    How, exactly, is Apple interfering in other businesses? MS, et al, aren't entitled to run Apple's business.

    You imply that Apple has no corporate sovereignty, and in fact, if Apple is aware of how little gaming will affect their business, streaming or otherwise, shouldn't they have the ability to test their business model in the market against competing business models?

    Unless of course, you have some sort of Minority Report operation that can predetermine success of a particular business model.

    I like Apple's curated approach, and I like that Apple doesn't rush into whatever the fad of the market is. Do you really think that streaming games, affected by latency issues, will be a wonderful experience from the get go?

    Perhaps you can provide a detailed, first person experience with specific hardware and services, to all of us.


    I really have no idea what you're asking for, here.

    In regards to the "run Apple's business" - I have no idea where you got that from what I said.
    Are you currently using a game streaming service on other hardware, ie, an Android device, and what is your experience with latency?
    macplusplusjdb8167
  • Reply 20 of 197
    bulk001bulk001 Posts: 716member
    This article is extremely one sided. Who is to say that big game publishers wouldn't absorb significant numbers of mobile game developers to their own streaming platforms and practically deprive Apple iOS and Mac game stores over night. This is a standalone business model so you bet your ass that big game publishers or even new venture capital wouldn't try this. Not all gaming should work this way, mobile games should run locally so Apple is right and they cant open the flood gates by letting MS or Google do it.
    I feel exactly the opposite! 😀 Kudos to AI for writing an objective article on the issue that goes beyond feeding “red meat” to the fanboys. Actually learned a lot about this that I never knew (but not much of a gamer.) 
    dysamoriacanukstormInspiredCodekiltedgreenmuthuk_vanalingamelijahgOferPascalxx
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