After many, many unsuccessful attempts to get into Apple’s App Store, Facebook’s Gaming app is finally out on iOS. But it’s missing an important functionality — gaming. And Facebook’s not too happy about it.
In a statement given to The Verge, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg criticized Apple’s App Store rules, which bans gaming platforms (that aren’t built by Apple). “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 Sandberg.
As is, the app is focused on discovering gaming content, watching game streams, and connecting with other gamers. A feature on the Android version called Instant Games, which allows users to play several mini games, isn’t available on iOS.
“Play instant games anytime, anywhere, without having to download. Because when you want to play, nothing should stop you,” says the app’s description on Google Play. On the iOS version, the “Play” section was crossed out. Next to an asterisk was a sarcastic note: Edited on iPhone. (The image has since been removed.)”
The burn is real.
The clash between Apple and Facebook mainly revolves around the definition of the app’s “main purpose.” Apple claims the app breaks its App Store rules about apps whose main purpose is distributing games, while Facebook says the app is mostly about streaming gaming videos. Apple’s rationale is that it cannot examine and approve individual games on such services. However, services on the other end of these decisions, such as Basecamp and Spotify, claim it’s about Apple exerting power over their platforms.
Vivek Sharma, Facebook’s vice president for gaming, told the New York Times that Apple has created “shared pain across the games industry, which ultimately hurts players and developers and severely hamstrings innovation on mobile for other types of formats like cloud gaming.”
Facebook’s criticism comes just a day after Microsoft voiced a similar complaint against Apple. The company reacted to Apple disallowing its xCloud platform on the App Store, saying Apple’s rules about gaming apps are unfair.
The pressure from Microsoft and Facebook is currently informal; no one is suing anyone (yet). But Apple is on the receiving end of an EU antitrust investigation surrounding its App Store rules, and complaints by other internet giants certainly won’t help its case.