Apple’s recent decision to block the rising game streaming apps made by Microsoft and Google is a decision that could solidify their position in the gaming market or haunt them in the coming years. The stance that Apple took was apparently due to the fact that Apple cannot individually review every game that is available on the app store. Microsoft has taken a hostile stance to this position and has publicly denounced Apple on complaints of anti-competitive practices. The scuffle between the two tech giants has started in an environment where Apple is under investigation by governmental organizations like the European Commission. In order to understand this situation it is important to start with the latest star in the gaming industry which is game streaming.
“Project Xcloud” and Google’s “Stadia” platform have signaled a new era of game streaming and subscription services for many people in the gaming industry. Properly setup game streaming can be seamless, require no hardware, and siphon a consistent monthly fee from millions of users. This model could benefit many traditional players in the gaming industry due to the non-hardware rooted nature of the system which means no manufacturing or shipping costs. Xcloud in particular has attracted millions of individuals that can range from casual gamers to the hardcore audience who wants to play the latest releases. The wide net cast by Microsoft’s game streaming service has put the tech giant at odds with its historical rival Apple.
Apple views the current rise of platform neutral game streaming services as an all out attack and has responded defensively. Policies such as requiring all games available in the app store to be individually submitted for an Apple sanctioned review are being used to fend off Microsoft and Google; However, Microsoft has fired back by alleging targeted discrimination of games and mentioned that IOS is the only platform that Xcloud is not currently ported to. The policies used to defend Apple barely hide the fact that this denial of service is purely to defend profits from its own app store and game streaming service called Apple Arcade. Microsoft is not innocent by any means, but Apple’s policies that choke out competition are far from defensible. Apple’s anti-competitive arbitrary policies have recently caught the eye of some bigger organizations than Microsoft.
The stranglehold that Apple holds over its own markets have caught the attention of EU regulators and this trend could spell disaster for Apple in the future. Apple has been under investigation for possibly anti-competitive app store policies and for possibly violating EU competition rules with Apple Pay. The blocking of competitors streaming services is fuel to the already raging anti-Apple bonfire. In the United States multiple companies have already claimed that Apple has unfairly enforced rules and the Justice Department is currently probing Apple’s app store for possible anti-trust violations. Apple’s grip on mobile gaming services could easily fall due to legal pressure from governments around the globe given enough time.
With the spotlight on Apple Tim “Apple” Cook needs to change something. It is unclear whether changes to the app store rules would quell the inquisition, but it would give some relief to a company that is currently legally besieged. Apple’s reluctance to change could be the ultimate downfall of the closed system it has spent years cultivating.
Sources: https://www.theverge.com/2020/6/16/21292651/apple-eu-antitrust-investigation-app-store-apple-pay, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/06/24/justice-department-anti-trust-apple-337120, https://techcrunch.com/2020/08/09/apple-goes-to-war-with-the-gaming-industry/, https://www.cnet.com/news/xbox-slams-apple-for-blocking-microsofts-project-xcloud-streaming-game-service/, https://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2020-08-07-apple-is-blocking-project-xcloud-and-stadia-on-ios-because-it-cant-review-every-game, https://appleinsider.com/articles/20/08/07/apples-block-of-xcloud-stadia-game-streaming-apps-is-at-best-consumer-hostile, https://www.pocketgamer.biz/news/73244/project-xcloud-hundreds-of-thousands-active-users/