Facebook brings cloud gaming to Apple devices with a web app

Facebook brings cloud gaming to Apple devices with a web app

Starting today, Facebook’s embryonic cloud gaming service will be available on iPhones and iPads via a web app that users can add to their home screens like a native app. You may play simple web games like Solitaire and match threes, as well as stream more graphically heavy titles like racing games, on the site.

However, because third-party developers like Facebook are prohibited from directing their app users to websites with purchasing methods that aren’t Apple’s own, it’s unclear how customers will find it. It’s a major source of contention for not only Facebook, but also other game businesses like Epic, who have vocally opposed Apple’s control over iOS payments. Facebook’s web games, which include HTML5-based titles as well as more complex titles that stream directly from the cloud, accept in-game purchases through the social network’s bespoke payment system, Facebook Pay.

Facebook’s move to deliver its game platform to iOS over the web follows in the footsteps of Amazon and Microsoft, both of which have released Progressive Web Apps, or PWAs, for their respective cloud gaming services to avoid the App Store. When Apple rejected Facebook’s attempt to put games in a standalone iOS app last year, the company screamed and said it would look into alternatives. Shortly after, Apple amended its regulations to allow cloud-based games as long as they were submitted individually as applications to the App Store for review — a provision that Microsoft and others claimed didn’t address their ambition to launch their own iOS gaming stores.

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In a statement to The Verge, Facebook’s vice president of gaming, Vivek Sharma, said, “We’ve arrived to the same conclusion as others: web apps remain the only choice for streaming cloud games on iOS at the moment.” “As many have pointed out, Apple’s policy of allowing cloud games on the App Store allows for very little. The need that each cloud game have its own website, be reviewed, and appear in search results negates the point of cloud gaming. Players are prohibited from discovering new games, playing cross-device, and accessing high-quality games instantaneously in native iOS apps — even if they aren’t using the latest and most costly devices — due to these roadblocks.”

Facebook isn’t yet a huge player in gaming, focusing instead on enticing streamers to broadcast their gameplay for the benefit of their viewers. Last year, though, it purchased a cloud gaming company and produced a number of free-to-play games, including Asphalt 9. Since then, it has expanded its service to more regions, introduced new titles such as Assassin’s Creed: Rebellion, and claimed that 1.5 million players play its cloud games each month.

While Facebook eventually discovered a way to bring its cloud games onto iOS, Apple’s Safari browser still places significant restrictions on web gaming. Sound is disabled by default, games are unable to send push alerts, and graphics are limited compared to native apps. There’s also the issue of discovery.

A Facebook spokesman declined to comment on the gaming website’s expansion ambitions, but Apple’s regulations state that developers can’t connect consumers from a native app to a website that doesn’t use Apple’s payment mechanism. Developers of Facebook games could perform their own marketing, but it would be insignificant compared to the amount of visitors the main Facebook app could send.

Facebook’s cloud games are now available in the United States, parts of Canada, and Mexico, while HTML games are available in other locations as cloud games are gradually rolled out.

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