From Friday, Facebook is bringing its cloud gaming service to iPads and iPhones. Through a web app, users will add to their home screens like a native app. Users can play simple web games like match-threes and Solitaire and stream more graphically intensive titles like racing games.
It is unclear how users will find it as in the Apple rules; third-party developers like Facebook cannot steer their app users to websites featuring purchasing mechanisms that aren’t Apple’s own. It is huge friction with Facebook and other gaming companies like Epic that have strongly protested Apple’s grip on iOS payments. Facebook’s library of web games includes HTML5-based ones and advanced titles that stream directly from the cloud. To accept in-game purchases, it uses Facebook Pay.
Facebook’s decision via the web mimics to bring its game platform to iOS is similar to Microsoft and Amazon, which have for their respective cloud gaming services also released Progressive Web Apps, or PWAs, to get around the App Store. Facebook last year complained when to put games in a standalone app for iOS was blocked by Apple and said it would look into alternatives. Shortly after the complaint, Apple changed its rule to allow for cloud-based games as long as the games were submitted individually as apps to the App Store for review. Microsoft and others said the policy didn’t address their desire to release their gaming storefronts on iOS.
According to Vivek Sharma, Facebook’s vice president of gaming, “We’ve come to the same conclusion as others: web apps are the only option for streaming cloud games on iOS at the moment. As many have pointed out, Apple’s policy to ‘allow’ cloud games on the App Store doesn’t allow for much at all. Apple’s requirement for each cloud game to have its page, go through a review, and appear in search listings defeats the purpose of cloud gaming. These roadblocks mean players are prevented from discovering new games, playing cross-device, and accessing high-quality games instantly in native iOS apps — even for those who aren’t using the latest and most expensive devices.”
Facebook isn’t the major player in gaming yet because it mostly focuses on courting streamers to broadcast their gameplay for the audience to watch. Last year a cloud gaming start-up was acquired by Facebook and realized a handful of free-to-play titles. While Facebook ultimately for getting its cloud games on iOS, found a solution, on web games, there are still big limitations imposed by Apple’s Safari browser.