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Facebook launched its standalone Facebook game app on iOS today, but strongly complained that Apple wouldn’t let it launch the instant games that are part of the app on Android.
This Facebook app helps gamers find games and connect with friends. But it doesn’t allow people to play with each other instantly, like it does on Android, because Apple doesn’t allow it on its platform. This is part of an ongoing dispute between Apple and Facebook.
“The game brings people together. And it’s even more important today in the midst of the pandemic, ”Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said in a statement and a series of tweets. “Unfortunately, we had to remove the gaming functionality entirely in order to get Apple’s approval on the standalone Facebook Gaming app, which means iOS users have a lower experience than those using Android. Let’s stay focused on building communities for the more than 380 million people who play games on Facebook every month, whether or not Apple allows it in a standalone app.
We have asked Apple for a comment and have yet to hear back.
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The dispute is similar to the situation between Microsoft and Apple over Project xCloud, the cloud-based gaming service used by gamers to stream PC and console games to their mobile devices. Apple said Project xCloud was not following its guidelines, but Microsoft maintained that Apple was blocking its Xbox Game Pass subscription service. Google Stadia and Nvidia GeForce have similar issues with Apple.
Facebook launched the Facebook Gaming app on Google Play in April and planned to launch it on iOS at the same time. But Apple rejected the standalone Facebook Gaming app at the time and rejected it about a half-dozen times since, citing App Store guideline 4.7.
This directive states that HTML5 games are allowed as long as “the distribution of code is not the primary purpose of the application”. The problem with Facebook is that playing games is objectively not the primary focus of the Facebook Gaming app. On the Android version, around 95% of app activity is watching game live broadcasts, with the rest being games.
Facebook has argued this case several times, shared this statistic with Apple, and made a formal appeal through the system it launched at WWDC. But Facebook said it never received a response. Since the app is important to the creators of Facebook Gaming, the company said it was launching the app without games and was transparent about what was going on.
Apple’s policy may earn it more heat when it comes to antitrust issues. Rivals like Facebook allege that Apple has too much control over its platform and prevents others from making money. But Apple’s take is that it protects users and their private information while others use intrusive advertising models to undermine privacy.
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