clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Apple’s latest policy change is good news for Game Pass Ultimate subscribers

Streaming games on your iPhone and iPad may soon get better

Microsoft Game Pass logo on green patterned background Illustration: James Bareham/Polygon
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Game-streaming services like Xbox’s Game Pass Ultimate and Nvidia’s GeForce Now will face one less restriction on Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices. App developers can now “submit a single app with the capability to stream all of the games offered in their catalog,” Apple said in a developer update on Thursday.

In practice, that means people streaming games on iPhone and iPad will have one less hoop to jump through.

Previously, Apple punted cloud-gaming app developers to a browser like Chrome or Safari through which players could stream games. As part of the iPhone-maker’s onerous restrictions on game-streaming apps, developers were permitted to make a “catalog app” listing all the games users can play. However, each game had to be available as an individual app downloaded from the App Store; the catalog app could only link out to them.

“All the games included in the catalog app must link to an individual App Store product page,” the previous guidelines said. Streaming services like Xbox Cloud Gaming (aka xCloud) and GeForce Now (and Google’s now-defunct Stadia) would also have to let users sign in with their Apple ID, and allow customers to pay for their subscription through an in-app purchase — which, of course, gives Apple a cut of that revenue.

Alongside other restrictions being lifted on iOS, iPadOS, and Apple’s App Store, which will help bring Epic Games’ Fortnite back to iPhones and iPads, game streaming is about to become much less of a hassle.

Whether that will woo Sony Interactive Entertainment to Apple’s ecosystem remains to be seen. Sony was, at one point, intending on bringing its cloud-based PlayStation Now game-streaming service to iOS — a plan that wasn’t public until the Epic Games v. Apple trial.

But with more than 2 billion active Apple devices in the world, expect to see more developers chase the cloud-gaming audiences directly through the App Store.

Microsoft opened up the Xbox Cloud Gaming platform to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers on Apple iOS devices and Windows PCs via browsers in June 2021. Before the service launched, however, Microsoft called Apple’s restriction on game-streaming apps “a bad experience for customers.”

“Gamers want to jump directly into a game from their curated catalog within one app just like they do with movies or songs, and not be forced to download over 100 apps to play individual games from the cloud,” the company said at the time. Soon, it appears gamers will have that option.

The next level of puzzles.

Take a break from your day by playing a puzzle or two! We’ve got SpellTower, Typeshift, crosswords, and more.