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Apple goes to war with the gaming industry. from Avira Kour's blog

Many players do not see apple as a gaming business to the same degree they see Sony with PlayStation or Microsoft with Xbox, but the iPhone maker continues to push the market consistently through decisions taken in the Apple App Store.A few times late this week, the organization did the news for App Store approvals. Once to reject one gaming application, and the other to accept one.

The rejection was the xCloud gaming software from microsoft something that Xbox fans weren't psyched too much for. Microsoft xCloud is one of the most significant gaming systems Xbox has been running in quite a while, enabling players to play live stream titles from the cloud and console quality games through a variety of devices.

 It's a big project that has been in preview for a little bit, but will possibly formally launch next month. The app was in a Testflight preview for ios but as Microsoft was trying to move it to primetime, Apple said it wasn't that easy.

The accepted software was the Facebook Gaming software that Facebook has tried to shove to no end into the App Store for months. This was eventually accepted Friday after one of its two core features, a library of downloadable mobile games, was stripped out by the company. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said in a curt statement to TheNew york times "Sadly, we had to delete the gaming features completely to get Apple 's approval on the stand-alone Facebook Gaming app."

Microsoft's Xbox team also took the highly offensive step of calling out Apple in a statement that reads, in part, "Apple stands alone as the only general purpose network to exclude users online gaming and game subscription services like the Xbox Game Pass. And it views gaming apps somewhat differently, applying lenienter guidelines to non-gaming apps even though they contain interactive content.

Microsoft is already a $1.61 trillion company so don't think I'm busting the guitar for them but iOS is the world's largest gaming network, which CEO Tim Cook confidently announced when the company released last year's Apple Arcade, its own app subscription program. Apple prefers to play at its own pace, and all these game-streaming sites that are popping up concurrently seem poised to overwhelm them.

There are a few aspects about cloud gaming apps that seem at odds with some of the laws of the App Store, but those laws are, of course, Apple 's written guidelines only. For the part of Apple, they essentially said (full statement later) that the App Store had curators for a reason, and that approving apps like this means that they can not personally review apps that undermine the experience of the App Store.

It seems disingenuous to say that this is "the explanation" as the company has long allowed services to function on the App Store without stamping approval on the individual pieces of content that can be accessed. With "Play" being the most popular category in the App Store, Apple probably cares far more about keeping its own money straight.CNBC 's report set overall sales for Apple's 2019 App Store at $50 billion.

When these cloud gaming systems like xCloud scale with zero iOS support, millions of Apple consumers, including myself, will literally get pissed that their iPhone can't do what their friend's phone can. Playing console-class games on an iPhone will be a major consumer feature upgrade.

 There are about 90 million Xbox Live users out there, a large amount of whom I would think are iPhone owners. As a push to encourage consumers to play more titles and discover more indie classics, the games industry is increasingly rallying around game subscription networks and cloud gaming.

I've seen enough of these sagas to know that occasionally parties are going to kick these wars off simply as a strategy for negotiation and preventing workarounds, but it's a technique that only works when customers have reason to worry. Some of the bigger App Store developer spats have played in the background and come to light later, but at this stage the Xbox team certainly sees that Apple is not all that well placed to fight an App Store war despite heightened antitrust pressure over a cause that appears largely focused on maintaining its edge in monetizing the games users play on Apple devices.

CEO Tim Cook spent a lot of time answering questions about perceived anticompetitiveness on the application storefront of the business in his Congressional Zoom space.

The big point of friction that I could see happening behind closed doors is that many of these games deliver in-game purchases and just because that in-app purchase process is being live-streamed from a cloud machine doesn't mean a user still doesn't use to access the content on an Apple device. I'm not sure if that's the point of contention, but it seems like it would be a major threat to Apple's ecosystem-wide in-app purchasing raking.

Actually, the App Store does not allow cloud gaming on Nvidia 's GeForce platform or the Google Stadia, all of which are also available on Android phones. Both of these solutions are more limited in scope than the bid from Microsoft which is expected to launch with broader support and pick up broader adoption.

Although I can understand Apple 's desire not to have gaming games ships that may not run properly on an iPhone due to device constraints, that claim doesn't extend so well to the cloud gaming environment where apps convert button presses to the cloud and the cloud sends them back the next engine-rendered frames of their game. 

Apple is being pressured to be very precise about what kinds of media apps come under the "reader" category. A cloud gaming platform 's inherent interactivity seems to be the distinction that Apple is promoting here — as well as the interfaces that allow gamers to launch games directly through an interface that's much more advanced than any generic remote desktop device.

Both of these outlets come after the company has already released Apple Arcade, a non-cloud gaming app built in the image of what Apple would like to believe are the ideals it fosters in the gaming world: family-friendly indie games with no intrusive advertising, no disturbing micro-transactions and the watchful consideration from Apple.

The seat role of Apple's driver in the gaming world has been far from having an entirely positive impact for the industry. Apple has served as a gatekeeper, but the truth is plenty of the "innovations" forced through as a result of App Store policies is great for Apple but dubious for the growth of a gamer-friendly games industry.

Apple promoted the introduction of free-to-play games by promoting in-app purchases that were recklessly exploited over the years, as developers were irresistibly forced to build their titles around addictive concepts. Mobile gaming has been one of Wild West's most wild start-up development fields over the past decade, and Apple's mechanics for driving fast transactions within these games have pushed things fast and broken.

Take a look at the App Store's 200 top grossing games (data from Sensor Tower) and you'll see that all 199 of them rely solely on in-app micro-transactions to achieve that status — Microsoft's Minecraft, ranked 50th, costs $6.99 to purchase, although it also provides in-app buys.

The company settled a class action lawsuit in 2013 that kicked off after parents sued Apple for making it too easy for children to make in-app purchases. In 2014, Apple was settling a $32 million lawsuit with the ftc over the same process. A lawsuit filed against Apple this year called into question the legitimacy of in-app "loot box" purchases that offer players randomized digital awards.

"Through the games it sells and provides to customers free of charge through its AppStore, Apple engages in predatory practices that enable users, including children, to participate in gambling and related addictive activity in violation of this and other laws aimed at protecting customers and banning such activities," read the new complaint.

Of course this is not how Apple sees its position in the gaming industry. Apple set out its messaging in a letter to Business Insider referring to the company's rejection ofxcloud from Microsoft.

The effect was — quite clearly — not uniformly negative, but when they favor the mothership, Apple has played fast and loose with shifts in business. I won’t act like plenty of Sony and Microsoft’s actions over the years haven’t offered similar affronts to gamers, but Apple exercises the industry-wide sway it holds, operating the world’s largest gaming platform, too often and gamers should be cautious in trusting the App Store owner to make decisions that have their best interests at heart.

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By Avira Kour
Added Aug 10 '20



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