Facebook slams Apple's restrictive policies as its gaming app arrives on iOS

It only lets you watch streams, as Apple wouldn't approve any gaming functionality.


As promised, Facebook has released its Gaming app on iOS, but it sure isn’t happy about it. In fact, the app has no games at all on iPhones and iPads, meaning functionality is limited to game streams and social functions. That’s because Apple wouldn’t approve the app with any games, for some of the same reasons that it has denied approval to Google’s Stadia and Microsoft’s xCloud, among other services.

“Unfortunately, we had to remove gameplay functionality entirely in order to get Apple’s approval on the standalone Facebook Gaming app — meaning iOS users have an inferior experience to those using Android,” said Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in a statement.

Facebook was planning to launch the iOS app at the same time as the Android app in April. However, Apple rejected it numerous times for violating its App Store rule on third-party software. That rule states that HTML5 games are permitted as long as “code distribution isn’t the primary purpose of the app.”

Facebook countered that around 95 percent of app activity on Android is from hosting and watching game streams, so gaming itself isn’t the primary purpose of the app. It appealed the rejections, but Apple ignored them, so Facebook elected to launch the app anyway while informing users what was going on. As such, the Go Live and other social features are available, but the casual HTML5 games you can play on Android are nowhere to be found on iOS.

With Facebook’s Gaming app, some major players are fighting Apple’s strict store policies over gaming. Microsoft and Google were forced to delay or compromise on their xCloud and Stadia apps, and NVIDIA’s GeForce Now service has yet to launch on iOS, either. A reckoning could come soon, though, one way or the other. Microsoft has brought all this to the attention of the US House antitrust committee, and the EU recently launched an antitrust probe into the Apple’s App Store.

Correction, 2:45PM ET: This story originally misspelled. Sheryl Sandberg’s first name and referred to her as CEO rather than COO. We apologize for the error.

This article contains affiliate links; if you click such a link and make a purchase, we may earn a commission.