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Apple: CMA remedies for cloud gaming on iOS are "plainly inappropriate and unreasonable"

iPhone maker claims it "encourages cloud gaming apps," defends App Store approval rules

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Apple has taken issue with the remedies proposed by the UK's Competition and Markets Authority to open up iOS to more cloud gaming services.

The company issued a response, now available online, to the UK regulator's statement that it would begin a phase two investigation into the landscape for mobile browsers and cloud gaming.

Within its statement of issues, the CMA proposed the following remedies to address potential barriers to cloud gaming on Apple's ecosystem:

  • Compelling Apple, and other app store operators, to review and amend guidelines to ensure cloud gaming providers are not unduly impacted
  • Allowing prompts that let users know when a cloud gaming app is available as a web app
  • Making app store approval and rejection processes more transparent and consistent
  • Enabling sideloading of native apps on iOS
  • Enabling the distribution of web apps through Apple's App Store
  • Enabling the installation of alternative app stores on iOS

In its response, Apple said: "It is without doubt that these remedies are aimed, not at cloud gaming, but at wider concerns identified in the MEMS [Mobile Ecosystem Market Study] final report with app distribution, for which the CMA considered that alternative actors/action was better placed to address those concerns."

It continued, "It is therefore plainly inappropriate and unreasonable for the CMA to now attempt to shoehorn these remedies into its consideration of cloud gaming," adding that the regulator itself recommended some of these issues be handled by the upcoming Digital Markets Unit.

Apple also argued that the CMA's remedies "risk disproportionately impacting Apple's ecosystem" and that "a proper investigation will conclusively demonstrate that the features of mobile browsers, browser engines and cloud gaming do not show an adverse effect on competition."

The iOS firm also disputed that its prevents cloud gaming apps from appearing on either the App Store or its ecosystem, instead claiming it has taken "active steps to encourage [them]."

It reiterated that cloud gaming providers can reach iOS users via web apps or through the App Store, providing each game included in the service has an product page and is reviewed individually.

This requirement has drawn criticism in the past – particularly from Microsoft and its Xbox Cloud Gaming service, which lamented how Apple treats video games differently to other forms of entertainment streaming, such as TV and film.

But Apple claims it is a necessary measure: "Games pose real and novel risks from a security/privacy perspective as compared to traditional media such as movies and music. Games are software that is dynamic, reacting to user input as well as interaction between users, and games can be modified to include objectionable content very rapidly. The nature of games is therefore distinct from content creation apps such as Roblox, which provide users with a standardised and fixed toolkit, which cannot be changed after the App Review process.

"By reviewing each streaming game, Apple can ensure not only that the relevant consumer information described above is made available, but it can also apply software controls that prompt apps for user permission to share personal information with developers and allow parents to authorize their children’s downloads. Such information and control via a product page is especially important for games given they are often targeted at children and children are some of the highest users of game apps."

The CMA's investigation into mobile browsers and cloud gaming will be conclude by May 2024.