Six months of unwavering resolve by Facebook have come to a halt, with the company making unwanted changes to have its Facebook Gaming application permitted on Apple’s App Store.
Facebook Gaming is a new standalone app that removes all of Facebook’s functionality, placing its focus instead on gamers who are live-streaming their gameplay. Now available for download, the application asks users to log in with their Facebook account.
As opposed to a regular Facebook feed, users will log in to see a list of selected games, followed games, and followed streamers. The application is much like other live streaming platforms populated by gamers, such as Twitch.
For gaming content creators, Facebook Gaming serves as an opportunity to watch gaming content as they usually would from their phones but with the added integration of the world’s most populous social media platform.
However, the rectification doesn’t come without compromises for Facebook. Facebook had initially wanted to feature mini-games within the application. Apple then rejected its requests to be on the app store, citing the App Store guideline 4.7 as sufficient reason for rejection.
Guideline 4.7 of Apple’s application submission rules states, “HTML5 games distributed in apps may not provide access to real money gaming, lotteries, or charitable donations, and may not support digital commerce.”
In the context of Facebook Gaming, Apple’s rules prohibited companies whose applications’ “main purpose” was to distribute games. Facebook shared usage data from Facebook Gaming on Android to assert that Apple’s stance was unfair, revealing that 95% of user activity was spent watching streams.
In June at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple had also shared an appeal process, which Facebook had tried to use, only to get rejected yet again.
A Facebook spokesperson said, “We even appealed the guideline under the new app review process announced at WWDC… We did not receive a response.”
Facebook also claimed that Apple had taken advantage of its hold over the iOS app store, consequently giving Apple users a Facebook Gaming experience that was inferior to what Android app users could enjoy.
Facebook Gaming on both the iOS App Store and the Android Play Store allows users to create and watch live gameplay streams and interact with gaming communities, Facebook Gaming on Android also allows users to engage with playable mini-games from Facebook’s Instant Games platform.
Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg expressed in a statement that the move was unfortunate. “We had to remove gameplay functionality entirely in order to get Apple’s approval on the stand-alone Facebook Gaming app,” she said.
However, she said that the company would continue to build platforms for its gaming community, “whether Apple allows it in a stand-alone app or not”.
The is not the first time that Facebook has had to compromise on its gaming content to be available on the iOS app store.
Facebook Gaming chief Vivek Sharma explained in a statement to The Verge that “even on the main Facebook app and Messenger, we’ve been forced to bury Instant Games for years on iOS”.
With iPhone users accounting for close to 45% of mobile phone users in the United States according to Statista, Apple’s regulations undoubtedly hinder the progress of global gaming communities.
“This is shared pain across the games industry, which ultimately hurts players and devs and severely hamstrings innovation on mobile for other types of formats, like cloud gaming,” said Sharma.