Facebook cloud gaming launches in browsers and on Android - but not iOS

Posted:
in iOS edited October 2020
Facebook has launched its cloud gaming service, but while it is available via web browsers and on Android devices, the new app feature won't be usable on iPhones and iPads at launch, due to Apple's "control over a very precious resource."

Facebook Gaming


Launched on Monday, Facebook Gaming is an option within the Facebook app and website that allows users to play highly graphical games, regardless of their hardware. Games are hosted and rendered in the cloud, with gameplay video streamed live to users with minimal lag.

Playing games in the cloud offers some benefits to users, such as not needing to download and install games before starting to play, immediate access to games, and working on multiple platforms in very similar ways.

While the service will be available for many users, Facebook won't be rolling it out to the iOS app at launch. In July, Facebook blamed Apple's policies for not enabling gameplay functionality within a standalone Facebook Gaming app, with most of it needing to be removed in order to be approved by Apple at all.

In a blog post, Facebook further advises "Even with Apple's new cloud games policy, we don't know if launching on the App Store is a viable path." Though it is possible that players would be able to work around the limitations, such as by using mobile browsers, Facebook insists there are still limitations to what could be offered via Safari.

"While our iOS path is uncertain, one thing is clear. Apple treats games differently and continues to exert control over a very precious resource," writes Facebook.

Facebook Gaming is launching in beta on Android and via desktop web browsers, with a selection of free to play cloud games. The initial releases include Gameloft's "Asphalt 9: Legends," "Mobile Legends: Adventure" by Moonton, "PGA Tour Gold Shootout" by Concrete Software, Qublix Games' "Solitare: Arthur's Tale," and "WWE SuperCard" from 2K Games.

Access to the games will start in some areas of the United States, including California, Texas, and Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, with regional access expanding in the coming months. The selection of game genres will also expand from latency-tolerant titles to more genres, including action and adventure games in 2021.

App Store policy issues

The main problem Facebook has is that Apple's guidelines for the App Store are restrictive when it comes to cloud gaming services.

As Apple doesn't allow for the creation of app stores within the App Store, this means gaming services with some form of store component won't be accepted unless the store is blocked off on iOS.

Apple also examines apps before they appear in the App Store, chiefly for security and to check they comply with rules. This effectively rules out any services that propose the separate installation of games, as that would involve code that Apple didn't have a chance to examine.

The restrictions have caught out other companies before. For example, the Steam Link app was accepted then rejected in 2018 for seemingly breaching App Store guidelines relating to "business conflicts," though one year later the app was then allowed back into the store following some changes.

However, the same policies have caused problems for Microsoft's xCloud and Google Stadia, two other game streaming platforms similar to Facebook Gaming.

In August, Apple explained xCloud wasn't allowed due to App Store guidelines stating apps couldn't rely on streaming from the cloud. While Steam Link isn't affected by the rule, as it is a stream from a user's own computer to their mobile device, it does apply to those with cloud servers.

The specific rule in the App Store guidelines is 3.1.2(a), which states "each game must be downloaded directly from the App Store," something which isn't possible for cloud gaming services.

Not long after, Microsoft fired back in accusing Apple of treating gaming apps unfairly compared to other apps in the App Store, applying rules more leniently against non-gaming apps "even when they include interactive content."

The same problem also affects Google Stadia, though one user's attempts to circumvent the App Store rules to enable Stadia access via a full-screen browser was pulled shortly after its release.

Apple has attempted to make it possible for game streaming services to exist in the App Store, but a clarification of the rules in September didn't do Apple any favors. Streaming games are permitted "so long as they adhere to all guidelines," which means each game playable on the service must be submitted for review by Apple and use Apple's in-app purchase mechanism to unlock features and functionality.

"Each streaming game must be submitted to the App Store as an individual app," Apple declared, with each including an App Store product page, appears in charts and search, and can be managed by ScreenTime. The collection of game apps would then be accessible within a main catalog app offered by the service.

Not all services offering cloud gaming are being affected by the App Store rules, with Amazon's Luna service working via the browser instead of relying on a dedicated app.

Given Apple's current legal fight against Epic Games over App Store monetization and third-party app store creation, it is unlikely that either of these elements will be relaxed for gaming services anytime soon.

Apple reached out to AppleInsider, insisting it is continuing to engage with Facebook by providing feedback to bring its apps in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines. It also supports developers of streaming game services wanting to join the App Store, including accessing users through multiple methods.

Said streaming services are to adhere to Guideline 4.9, which relate to individual game submissions to the App Store, the use of in-app purchase mechanisms, and the operation of catalog apps. Apple also reiterated that services that aren't able to work with Apple's guidelines are still able to provide their product to consumers via Safari, which isn't subject to the same restrictions.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 17
    Apple should never allow anything to do with Fuckerberg on their devices. 
    Rayz2016rotateleftbytemacseekerthttmaydysamoriawatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 2 of 17
    Apple should never allow anything to do with Fuckerberg on their devices. 
    Agreed.....who needs fb gamings.....deleted FB in my devices long time ago
    rotateleftbyteBeatsdysamoriawatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 3 of 17
    Kuyangkoh said:
    Apple should never allow anything to do with Fuckerberg on their devices. 
    Agreed.....who needs fb gamings.....deleted FB in my devices long time ago

    Some of us never allowed it near our devices in the first place. FB is highly addictive.
    dysamoriawatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 17
    The specific rule in the App Store guidelines is 3.1.2(a), which states "each game must be downloaded directly from the App Store," something which isn't possible for cloud gaming services.

    It's not impossible. You could have a cloud gaming service that was entirely oriented around iOS/iPadOS native apps. That could be done with apps that were originally coded for iOS/iPadOS or ported to iOS/iPadOS from PC or console. 

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 17
    FatmanFatman Posts: 513member
    Aren’t titles like Asphalt and others listed in this article already available in the App Store? Unless there are exclusives who needs more ‘casual games’? FB is just using games as another way to collect data for their massive database. Apple needs AAA console titles, with the next gen of ‘super chips’ they may be able to pull it off... then they will have all bases covered.
    Beatstmaywatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 17
    Apple should never allow anything to do with Fuckerberg on their devices. 
    Maybe they shouldn't.  But we all know FB ain't going nowhere.  4 of the Top 10 apps downloaded on iOS devices belong to FB.  Without fail, that's happens almost every quarter.  We, tech nerds, are a decided minority regarding FB.  Nothing short of a very large, full scale concerted revolt can stop that perpetual motion machine.  FB does all kinds of shenanigans yet... still they grow.  
    dysamoria
  • Reply 7 of 17
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,010member
    Fatman said:
    Unless there are exclusives who needs more ‘casual games’?

    Apple needs AAA console titles
    Where's the evidence that there is an audience for AAA games, with AAA game pricetags, on the iPhone/iPad?  These are platforms that encrouage casual gaming, not long sessions.
  • Reply 8 of 17
    Apple should never allow anything to do with Fuckerberg on their devices. 
    Apple should never allow anything to do with Fuckerberg on their devices. 
    SURE ... if Apple wants their sales to plummet. Makes as much sense as blocking YouTube and Gmail. You don't think that Google didn't want to block the Facebook apps back when they were desperate to get Google+ going? They knew that virtually no one would have bought Android devices if they had. 
    dysamoria
  • Reply 9 of 17
    The specific rule in the App Store guidelines is 3.1.2(a), which states "each game must be downloaded directly from the App Store," something which isn't possible for cloud gaming services.

    It's not impossible. You could have a cloud gaming service that was entirely oriented around iOS/iPadOS native apps. That could be done with apps that were originally coded for iOS/iPadOS or ported to iOS/iPadOS from PC or console. 

    While not impossible there are tons of good business reasons for not doing it that way. In nearly all cases streaming all or most of the app costs a lot of money while providing a worse user experience in return for no discernible benefit to either the user or the app maker. Cloud hosting fees, bandwidth fees, you name it. Unless you are the cloud provider - which Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Nvidia are - it is far more financially and technically desirable to have most of the app downloaded and running locally while only providing cloud support as a backend service. An example: if you host a game, you have to pay a bunch of cloud fees whether anyone actually uses the game or not. If only the backend services are cloud-hosted, you only pay when the users access those services. You don't even have to pay for when the gamers play offline. 

    Cloud gaming gives you the ability to increase your potential market in theory because it makes games available to people who don't have a particular console or a computer - let's face it, a Windows one - with a dedicated graphics card. In practice, the modern gaming industry has been built over the last 25 years - let us say since the launch of the original PlayStation/Nintendo 64 as well as PC titles like System Shock and Duke Nukem (or maybe you can say it really began with the combo of better PC games like Half-Life and the XBox providing PlayStation with real competition a few years later) - around people who are willing to acquire those things. Meaning that a person who doesn't own a console or gaming PC is extremely unlikely to be able to play anything more demanding than Clash of Clans or Candy Crush (or whatever the dominant mobile-only title as opposed to console/PC games with significant mobile crossplay like Fortnite and Genshin Impact) in the first place.

    So ... cloud gaming has 3 models to make it viable.
    0. One where you can play your existing library of PC/console games when you aren't on your PC or console. (Nvidia).
    1. A Netflix-for-games model where you can play a bunch of games for a flat fee. (Amazon and Microsoft)
    2. An "engagement" model that centers around highly immersed users (Facebook, meant to keep people who already use Facebook on Facebook. Note that this is also the goal with Apple Arcade ...to get people already on their iPhones and iPads to stay on them. Before you protest, remember that Apple dropped some Arcade games because engagement wasn't high enough, and Phil Schiller stated that superior immersion was a reason for public schools to prefer iPads over Chromebooks for kids.)

    So requiring an individual app for each streaming game: the business model doesn't work. Apple points out that the web and PWAs are available as an alternative, but Safari and PWA restrictions on iOS means that it takes a lot longer to develop those solutions than it does on Windows, macOS and ChromeOS. (Facebook IS NOT the first to state this by the way. PWA developers were complaining about this before the game streaming thing or the Epic thing.) So it requires a custom solution that doesn't conform to either PC browser or mobile PWA standards, which isn't easy to do with the scale, bandwidth, bluetooth controller, touchscreen etc. requirements.

    Amazon got it going only because they chose to focus on iOS before Android - because Google actually is their enemy - to the point where they aren't even initially going to let it work for Amazon Prime customers who have Kindle Fire tablets (I would imagine that this group will not be pleased ... but it is likely only a small segment of their customer base and they aren't exactly going to go anywhere due to the other benefits of being a Prime member). Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Nvidia will get it working next year. 
  • Reply 10 of 17
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,010member
    cloudguy said:
    The specific rule in the App Store guidelines is 3.1.2(a), which states "each game must be downloaded directly from the App Store," something which isn't possible for cloud gaming services.

    It's not impossible. You could have a cloud gaming service that was entirely oriented around iOS/iPadOS native apps. That could be done with apps that were originally coded for iOS/iPadOS or ported to iOS/iPadOS from PC or console. 

    While not impossible there are tons of good business reasons for not doing it that way. In nearly all cases streaming all or most of the app costs a lot of money while providing a worse user experience in return for no discernible benefit to either the user or the app maker. Cloud hosting fees, bandwidth fees, you name it. Unless you are the cloud provider - which Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Nvidia are - it is far more financially and technically desirable to have most of the app downloaded and running locally while only providing cloud support as a backend service. An example: if you host a game, you have to pay a bunch of cloud fees whether anyone actually uses the game or not. If only the backend services are cloud-hosted, you only pay when the users access those services. You don't even have to pay for when the gamers play offline. 
    What you've described there is cloud gaming?  Not sure why you're making an argument for traditional on-device game apps when that has nothing to do with the topic.

    What do you even mean "streaming all or most of the app"?  Whether its a single library app (which Apple isn't allowing) or an app per game, the app itself isn't being streamed (not even sure what you mean by that), just the game content.  It makes no real difference if it's one app for 20 games, or 20 apps for 20 games, the game is stil being streamed in the same way, the conundrum here is that the service providers don't want to have to create a maintain an app for every game, when each app is effectively the same launcher and container for controls and playback. 

    I think there are obvious arguments as to why that's less desirable for them, and Apple's stance doesn't make all that much sense, except that it manages to fulfill arbitrary rules.
    CloudTalkin
  • Reply 11 of 17
    cloudguy said: Unless you are the cloud provider - which Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Nvidia are - it is far more financially and technically desirable to have most of the app downloaded and running locally while only providing cloud support as a backend service.
    Any of the companies listed could license 3rd party games that were native to iOS/iPadOS for a cloud gaming service that would pass App Store rules and could also run on other platforms too. Look at Facebook: they're licensing mobile games already. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 17
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,906member
  • Reply 13 of 17
    crowley said:
    cloudguy said:
    The specific rule in the App Store guidelines is 3.1.2(a), which states "each game must be downloaded directly from the App Store," something which isn't possible for cloud gaming services.

    It's not impossible. You could have a cloud gaming service that was entirely oriented around iOS/iPadOS native apps. That could be done with apps that were originally coded for iOS/iPadOS or ported to iOS/iPadOS from PC or console. 

    While not impossible there are tons of good business reasons for not doing it that way. In nearly all cases streaming all or most of the app costs a lot of money while providing a worse user experience in return for no discernible benefit to either the user or the app maker. Cloud hosting fees, bandwidth fees, you name it. Unless you are the cloud provider - which Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Nvidia are - it is far more financially and technically desirable to have most of the app downloaded and running locally while only providing cloud support as a backend service. An example: if you host a game, you have to pay a bunch of cloud fees whether anyone actually uses the game or not. If only the backend services are cloud-hosted, you only pay when the users access those services. You don't even have to pay for when the gamers play offline. 
    What you've described there is cloud gaming?  Not sure why you're making an argument for traditional on-device game apps when that has nothing to do with the topic.

    What do you even mean "streaming all or most of the app"?  Whether its a single library app (which Apple isn't allowing) or an app per game, the app itself isn't being streamed (not even sure what you mean by that), just the game content.  It makes no real difference if it's one app for 20 games, or 20 apps for 20 games, the game is stil being streamed in the same way, the conundrum here is that the service providers don't want to have to create a maintain an app for every game, when each app is effectively the same launcher and container for controls and playback. 

    I think there are obvious arguments as to why that's less desirable for them, and Apple's stance doesn't make all that much sense, except that it manages to fulfill arbitrary rules.
    Sorry. What I typed was imprecise (to be kind). What I was attempting to do was explain why Apple's rules for the App Store preclude any cloud gaming services from having a viable business model on iOS, meaning that PWA is the only recourse. Serious gaming - as opposed to casual mobile titles and even a lot of Nintendo titles that aren't also on XBox/Playstation/PC for that matter - has been built around buying a $60 game on a $300-$400 console or (often far) more expensive Windows PC and has been since the mid 90s ... basically when it transitioned from the likes of kids games like Mario and Sonic and arcade ports like Street Fighter to stuff like Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy VII. While I am certainly rooting for Stadia and especially Nvidia GeForce Now, in order to be financially viable, a video game streaming service is going to need to be a subscription-based one where the games are bundled in a catalog. Which the App Store's rules precludes. 

    While iOS does allow PWAs, this website does a great job of talking about limitations that make using it for cloud gaming catalogs a challenge:
    https://love2dev.com/pwa/ios/

    Not an impossible set of challenges by any means, but not easy or fun either. 
  • Reply 14 of 17
    cloudguy said: Unless you are the cloud provider - which Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Nvidia are - it is far more financially and technically desirable to have most of the app downloaded and running locally while only providing cloud support as a backend service.
    Any of the companies listed could license 3rd party games that were native to iOS/iPadOS for a cloud gaming service that would pass App Store rules and could also run on other platforms too. Look at Facebook: they're licensing mobile games already. 
    Yes, they could ... if they want to lose even more money for a much longer period of time. The business model for doing it that way stinks. Microsoft - thanks to their massive Azure infrastructure, huge library of games thanks to first party XBox stuff and their decades of buying up gaming studios for IP and tens of millions of existing XBox Live, Gold and Play Pass subscribers - has the best possible business model for something like this and it is still going to take them years to realize a profit. So the idea that anyone is going to make any money by streaming individually listed mobile titles to iPads and iPhones is a nonstarter. It is interesting from a tech perspective. Google started hyping the idea of streaming games and other apps way back in 2015 with Android 6.0, though they haven't talked about it that much lately. But because it requires a ton of cloud infrastructure expertise and ongoing costs, there is little reason to implement a single app that way, let alone a library of separate apps.

    Remember: Google's goal for the streaming app thing was to get around cheaper Android phones not having the processing power to run a great many apps. So they hoped publishers would embrace app streaming as a way to get those apps on very cheap Android devices. But now that even $150 Android phones have octacore processors and 2-3 GB of RAM - more horsepower than the Samsung Galaxy S4 for example - that isn't as much of a problem anymore. And naturally this was never a problem for iPhones and iPads. 

    But streaming apps to replace native apps is not financially viable generally. And ironically the concept of "streaming apps to replace native apps on underpowered devices" has been replaced with PWAs anyway, which is precisely what Apple advocates for these "Netflix of games" type services.
  • Reply 15 of 17
    One thing that is not in this version of Facebook’s blog post (which is not really a big surprise) is “blur the line between games and ads”. Facebook wants unfettered ability to track users and serve ads.

    Another thing not written is Facebook’s offer to give Apple the 30% of in-app purchases. So, Facebook wants to pay Apple to allow it use Apple’s App Store, iOS and devices to collect user data restrictions.

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 17
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 2,563member
    While our iOS path is uncertain, one thing is clear. Apple treats games differently and continues to exert control over a very precious resource,


    I call bullshit! Facebook is completely free to make the service available through Safari. Apple doesn’t control anything with regards to any web-based services. Webkit is an open source project hosted on github. Any shortcomings Facebook runs into, they are free to contribute to the project. Apple has a long history of supporting and contributing to open web standards. Whether it’ s an app or a web page, the bottle neck in most streaming services is going to be the connection to the Internet.

    Safari on iOS boasts the fastest Javascript and graphics performance on any platform. So any “issues” Facebook has is of their own making.
    dewmewatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 17 of 17
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 3,430member
    Don’t care; it’s Facebook, so I’m not interested.
    watto_cobra
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