Apple’s Rejection of Facebook’s Gaming App Conveniently Leaks Just When Everyone’s Mad at Apple

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Photo: Joanna Nelius (Gizmodo)

Facebook released a stand-alone gaming app in April, but, try as it might, the company can’t convince Apple to allow it in the iOS App Store. Facebook has submitted the app five times, in fact, according to the New York Times. The reason? Apple doesn’t allow apps that are essentially storefronts for distributing casual games in its App Store.

It’s not entirely surprising that Apple rejected Facebook Gaming, given that it has its own gaming platform, Apple Arcade, which is focused on—you guessed it—distributing casual games. Facebook Gaming appears to compete with Apple Arcade, which made $15 billion in revenue last year, which could be the reason why Apple continues to reject the app.

Facebook has distributed games since 2010, yet it’s never been the social media platform’s main focus. The same could be said about its new gaming app, which curates all the gaming content on Facebook and puts in one place.

In addition to letting its users access and play casual games, Facebook’s gaming app also filters video content from any gaming-related groups you follow on Facebook into its own feed. The feed I see in Facebook Gaming on Android is currently full of Overwatch streams and videos. There’s a separate tab that lets you explore streaming content based on favorite streamers, games, and a couple other categories. The first thing I see when I open up the app are videos of people streaming GTA 5, The Last of Us, and Fortnite, both live and recorded.

Apple initially denied Facebook Gaming, the Times’ sources said, because the app violated Section 4.7 of its App Store rules, which states that HTML5 games are allowed as long as “the code is not offered in a store or store-like interface.” They said Facebook redesigned its gaming app for the App Store several times, going as far as completely removing the ability for users to search for and play games, but Apple still denied Facebook’s request.

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Facebook isn’t the only company coming up against App Store rules. Developers of a new email app, Hey, are publicly battling Apple over a rejection due to allowing payment for premium features outside of the app to avoid paying the 15-30% cut Apple takes from in-app purchases—otherwise known as the “Apple tax.” Developer David Heinemeier Hansson said Apple will approve an important Hey software update only if the agrees to enable in-app subscriptions, which would then be subjected to the revenue-share Apple requires. But other apps manage to avoid paying Apple for outside subscriptions, which Hansson claims is inequitable.

Apple is currently under investigation in the European Union for antitrust violations for alleged anti-competitive practices, because its apps are not subject to the revenue-share that third-party apps are. which are not subject to a revenue-share, in the App Store. In a press statement announcing the investigation, European Commission Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager said Apple had “obtained a gatekeeper role,” referencing how the company decides what apps it will allow on its store.

“We need to ensure that Apple’s rules do not distort competition in markets where Apple is competing with other app developers, for example with its music streaming service Apple Music or with Apple Books,” Vestager said. “I have therefore decided to take a close look at Apple’s App Store rules and their compliance with EU competition rules.” 

It’s worth noting that while Apple charges a subscription fee to access its games, Facebook does not. If you really want to, you can still play games on Facebook through its main big blue app, which has been available to download in the App Store for what seems like all of time.

It’s also worth noting that Google’s Stadia app is available on the App Store, and you can make purchases via the app. Another similar platform, Shadow, was banned from the App Store, but recently reinstated in May 2020. Apple also recently confirmed that it does allow some video streaming services, like Amazon Prime, to bypass its 30 percent store fee.

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