Apple has made headlines with its shifting App Store policies that forbid streaming game services, like Stadia, GeForce Now and Xbox Game Pass, from appearing on the iPhone and iPad. Naturally, this has led to people looking for work-arounds: thus, “Stadium,” a thin browser app made by an indie developer specifically to run Stadia on iOS. It’s going away soon.
The app’s developer Zachary Knox broke the news on Discord, quickly spreading to Reddit. He says that Apple’s internal review system is removing Stadium from the App Store because it is “extending WebKit with native APIs to connect with Bluetooth,” presumably referring to the way the app allows input from Bluetooth controllers, as Chrome and other browsers allow on desktop platforms. Knox warns people that if they want the app, they should download it from the App Store now, as its removal is immanent.
Apple’s developer policies allow web-based games, specifically highlighting HTML5 games, as long as they don’t try too hard to step on the toes of stand-alone apps. The Verge refers to section 4.7 of the App Store Review Guidelines. A few relevant excerpts:
(5) adheres to the terms of these App Review Guidelines (e.g. does not include objectionable content); and (6) does not offer digital goods or services for sale.
Previous amendments to the App Store Review Guidelines added extra rules for game streaming services, requiring each and every game to be available as a standalone app and thus subject to Apple’s individual review.
While Apple hasn’t made any specific declarations of intent beyond these modifications of its internal rules, it now seems clear that the company is actively trying to keep streaming game platforms off of the iPhone and iPad. Guessing at Apple’s motivation would be, well, guessing, but the fact that it offers its own game library service in Apple Arcade may be of interest to regulators who are already eyeing the mobile app market.
For his part, Zachary Knox says that he’s disappointed, but doesn’t resent Apple for its decision. “They didn’t want their native frameworks and WebKit interacting how I had them working,” he said on Reddit. Stadium currently has more than 15,000 downloads on the App Store. Knox says he’ll release the code for Stadium as open source soon, though other developers trying to achieve the same thing in the same way will be hit with the same rules.
Apple may find itself playing whack-a-mole when it comes to services trying to get around the App Store’s anti-streaming game rules. Microsoft and Amazon have announced that they intend to offer web-based solutions for Game Pass Streaming and Luna, respectively.