Facebook on Friday brought its cloud gaming service to iOS devices using the Safari browser. It's a similar delivery method as Google's Stadia service and Microsoft's Xbox Cloud Gaming platform, and it's due to Apple's App Store restrictions that cloud gaming providers are resorting to browser-based solutions instead of native apps.
"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," said Vivek Sharma, Facebook Gaming's vice president. "Apple's requirement for each cloud game to have its own page, go through 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."
Apple last year made public its stance on cloud gaming, arguing that video games, unlike television or other media, can't be streamed over the internet on iOS devices unless cloud gaming operators redesign their services to treat each game as an individual app. The restrictions have fueled a feud between Apple and companies like Epic and Microsoft, which have begun more vocally complaining about Apple's treatment of gaming apps on the iPhone and iPad. Epic also sued Apple over alleged antitrust violations for its removal of the Fortnite iOS app. The case went to trial in May and is awaiting a verdict from the judge.
Facebook's cloud gaming service didn't launch until October of last year, when it arrived in a closed beta form only on Android devices and the web featuring a mix of HTML5-powered games and slightly more-powerful mobile titles. Facebook is focusing on games already designed for smartphones, with a goal to reduce download times and make it easier to jump into a game instantly rather than trying to make console or PC-quality titles available on the go. The company isn't charging for the service and is treating it as an extension of its existing Facebook Gaming efforts, which include browser-based gaming and Twitch-like live streaming.
Now, the company says it's resorting to mobile Safari to deliver the service on iOS devices because Apple doesn't allow any other option to get on the App Store. Similar to Stadia and other services, iPhone owners can save the web URL as a shortcut on their iOS home screen, so that it looks and acts like a native app. Progressive web apps do not, however, have access to key system-level iOS features like push notifications and certain Apple APIs.