Fb launches cloud video games however says Apple gained't enable this on iOS


Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Georgetown University in a "Free Speech Conversation" in Washington, DC on October 17, 2019.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images

Facebook announced the launch of cloud games on its desktop website and Android app on Monday, but said that it would not be able to bring the games to iOS due to Apple's "arbitrary" guidelines.

Facebook's web and Android users can try free games in seconds without leaving the social network. Users play a game that is streamed from Facebook's data centers without having to download the game to their devices first. The idea is similar to the services offered by Microsoft and Google, but without the console-quality games offered by these services.

The banning of Apple devices from Facebook cloud games is the latest shot sparked in a long-standing feud between the companies

The war of words goes back to a March 2018 comment by Apple CEO Tim Cook, in which he criticized the social network's handling of user privacy in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which led to data from 87 Millions of Facebook users was improperly accessed.

Companies have since looked into it, and Facebook recently questioned Apple's App Store policies as Washington lawmakers and regulators scrutinize the probes and hold antitrust hearings with big tech, including the iPhone maker.

Apple's policies that the company use to determine which apps to approve or reject do not allow apps that behave like third-party app stores. It prohibits apps that distribute software as the "primary purpose" of the app and bar codes that are offered "in a store or shop-like interface".

Last month, Apple revised its game services guidelines, stating that apps could offer a subscription to multiple games, but each game must be approved by Apple and offered in its own app.

Facebook could bring cloud games to iOS if it activates the new product on the mobile web version of its service. However, the company wants users to access its apps instead, said Jason Rubin, vice president of specialty gaming initiatives at Facebook.

"We don't want people to go to Facebook 20 times a day. We have a great app," said Rubin. "We'd have to use Apple's technology and browser on iOS, and that's not optimized for cloud games."

With Facebook cloud games on iOS, iPhone and iPad users could find out what games their friends are playing, view lists of top games on Facebook, or play games with features that are unique to Facebook, Rubin said.

"Consumers are being handicapped in many ways," said Rubin.

Apple enables software developers to bring cloud games to iOS by submitting each game to the App Store as a single app, Apple told CNBC. According to Apple, developers can also serve cloud games through the Safari browser. Apple has continued to partner with Facebook to provide them with helpful feedback on how to get their apps to comply with the iOS App Store guidelines, Apple said.

Rubin responded to Apple's claims on Twitter after this story was published.

"Apple claimed to provide 'helpful feedback' on this story," said Rubin. “Answering multiple requests to approve our iOS cloud concepts with 'This fails under guidelines' is better than the radio silence we've sometimes seen in the past, but that's hardly 'helpful feedback,'” he said.

Apple also took a close look at the official Facebook gaming account on Twitter: "You only need the Facebook app on Android. IOS doesn't work for the time being. Because Apple (sigh)."

Facebook's strategy against Google, Amazon and Microsoft

The games are not in console quality or even comparable to cloud gaming subscription services like Google Stadia, Amazon Luna or Microsoft xCloud. They are versions of mobile games that you can already download onto a phone or tablet. These include titles like Asphalt 9: Legends, a 3D racing driver, and PGA TOUR Golf Shootout, a 3D golf game. Users can play the free games with their touch screens or mouse and keyboards.

"We believe this will expand very quickly since we don't pre-charge and you don't need a controller," said Rubin.

Facebook's cloud gaming launch comes less than a year after spending $ 78 million to acquire PlayGiga, a Spanish cloud gaming startup. An estimated 380 million monthly users already play simple HTML5 games on Facebook, but these cloud games will improve the quality of the social network's game catalog.

Cloud games should give Facebook a twofold advantage. Better games could result in more users spending more time on Facebook, which increases the company's average revenue per user – a key metric for the company's quarterly results.

In addition, developers who add their games to Facebook can advertise playable demos of those games. This allows developers to introduce their games to a large audience, users can play full games in ads, and create another ad product for Facebook that puts more than 98% of its revenue on advertising.

"With this new format, we can now support interactive demos from a game's native code, blurring the line between games and ads," the company said in a blog post.

Facebook will also make some cash from in-game purchases. When Facebook users make a micro-purchase through a cloud game, 30% of sales go to Facebook and 70% to game developers. When it comes to purchases on Android, Facebook doesn't cut it and its 30% goes to Google instead.

"We would be ready to give Apple the 30%, that doesn't stop us," said Rubin. "What is holding us back is that we're not allowed to do the things that we do on Android."

Facebook Cloud Gaming launches this week for users in California, Texas, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington DC – all regions near Facebook- Data center, said Rubin. The company hopes to expand availability in the coming months.

– CNBC's Kif Leswing contributed to this report.


Katherine Clark