With new EU rules against anti-competitive practices looming, Apple has announced it’ll soon be permitting developers to release Game-Pass- and storefront-style catalogue apps, containing multiple streamable and installable games and programmes, onto its App Store.
These new apps can include “streaming games, mini-apps, mini-games, chatbots, and plug-ins”, and Apple says developers “will be able to” incorporate its In-App Purchase system to offer users paid digital content or services “such as a subscription for an individual chatbot.”
Its initial announcement doesn’t highlight the cut Apple will want from this new style of app (currently it charges developers a 30 percent fee for paid apps and in-app purchases) – or if the use of its In-App Purchase system is mandatory – but it’ll likely get into the specifics soon.
Apple says these new host apps must adhere to “all App Store Review Guidelines” and must maintain an age rating based on the highest age-rated content contained within. It adds that it’s implementing the changes to “reflect feedback from Apple’s developer community” and insists that the move is consistent with the App Store’s mission “to provide a trusted place for users to find apps they love and developers everywhere with new capabilities to grow their businesses”.
It’s almost certainly not a coincidence, however, that Apple will, from this March, need to comply with new rules under the EU’s Digital Markets Act, which, among other things, requires it – and other big tech companies – to open up mobile platforms to app stores owned and operated by other companies. Presumably, this is Apple’s attempt to make its own App Store – with access to its massive userbase – a more attractive option.
Microsoft has already confirmed it’s looking to take advantage of the EU’s new rules by implementing its own app store. Notably, the company’s attempt to put Project xCloud on iOS – giving access to its catalogue of Game Pass games via streaming – was blocked by Apple in 2020. At the time, Apple insisted the kind of catalogue app Microsoft was attempting to submit – and which it is now explicitly permitting – was inappropriate as all games must be submitted individually for review to ensure the App Store remained a “safe and trusted place for customers”. Many suggested the complexity of taking its cut from these kinds of all-inclusive apps likely influenced Apple decision at the time.
Other companies – likely including Epic Games, which has been a vocal critic of Apple’s App Store rules in the last few years – will no doubt have their own external app store plans in the works ahead of the EU’s new rules. However, a recent report by The Wall Street Journal has suggested Apple is currently formulating plans that will give it the power to review all apps and collect fees on all apps downloaded outside its App Store.