Image Courtesy: 9to5Mac
Starting on Friday, Facebook will offer its fledgling cloud gaming service to iPhones and iPads via a web app that users can add to their home screens much like a native app. The website enables simple web games such as Solitaire and match-threes as well as stream more graphically intensive titles such as racing games.
However, because third-party developers like Facebook are prohibited from directing their app users to websites with purchase methods that aren’t Apple’s own, it’s unclear how consumers will find it. It’s a major source of contention not only with Facebook, but also with other game firms like Epic, which have fiercely opposed Apple’s control over iOS payments. To accept in-game purchases, Facebook’s web games, which include HTML5-based titles as well as more sophisticated titles that stream straight from the cloud, employ the social network’s own payments system called Facebook Pay.
Facebook’s move to offer its game platform to iOS through the web follows in the footsteps of Amazon and Microsoft, both of which have created Progressive Web Apps, or PWAs, for their respective cloud gaming services in order to avoid the App Store. When Apple denied Facebook’s effort to offer games in a standalone app for iOS last year, the company reacted angrily and stated that it would investigate alternatives. Soon after, Apple modified its regulations to allow cloud-based games as long as they were submitted separately as apps to the App Store for evaluation — a provision that Microsoft and others argued did not address their ambition to launch their own gaming shops on iOS.
“We’ve arrived to the same conclusion as others: web applications are now the only choice for streaming cloud games on iOS,” Facebook’s vice president of gaming, Vivek Sharma, said in a statement to The Verge. “As many have pointed out, Apple’s stance of ‘allowing’ cloud games on the App Store does not permit much. The need by Apple that each cloud game have its own website, go through approval, and show in search results contradicts the point of cloud gaming. These obstacles restrict gamers from discovering new games, playing cross-device, and quickly accessing high-quality games in native iOS applications – even if they aren’t using the latest and most costly devices.”
While Facebook eventually discovered a way to get its cloud games on iOS, Apple’s Safari browser still has significant restrictions on web gaming. Sound is disabled by default, games are unable to send push alerts, and visuals are not as strong as they may be in native apps. Then there’s the issue of discovery.