Apple says game streaming apps are now allowed in the App Store after years of forcing companies like Microsoft and Nvidia to offer web apps instead

iPhone and Xbox Controller
(Image credit: iMore/Future)

If you're an iPhone gamer there is no shortage of games for you to play. The App Store is full to the brim with great games and Apple Arcade is available for those who would rather pay a monthly fee and have access to a catalog of titles without any ads or in-app purchases. But as great as iPhone gaming has become with the arrival of the iPhone 15 Pro and console-quality games, it still can't quite compete with what consoles can offer. That's where remote play comes in or, if you prefer, cloud gaming.

Until now, services like Xbox Cloud Gaming and Nvidia GeForce Now have been able to offer their wares on the iPhone but only via a web app. That was because Apple wouldn't allow companies like Microsoft and Nvidia to make game streaming apps available via the App Store because they couldn't be properly vetted by App Store review teams. Now, Apple has had a change of heart and while third-party app stores are set to be an EU-only affair, game-streaming apps are coming to the App Store globally.

That's what the company has confirmed today in a wide-ranging update to the App Store and its policies. The change to allow companies to offer streaming apps in the App Store is undoubtedly one of the biggest changes however, and it's one that is sure to prove a popular one among gamers everywhere.

Game on!

Apple announced the move on its developer website, outlining the change and what it means for multiple kinds of apps — not just those that offer streaming games. The upshot is that any app that offers so-called mini-programs is now good to go in terms of App Store review, something that developers have been crying out for for years.

"Today, Apple is introducing new options for how apps globally can deliver in-app experiences to users, including streaming games and mini-programs," the company announced. "Developers can now submit a single app with the capability to stream all of the games offered in their catalog."

The announcement continued, adding that "apps will also be able to provide enhanced discovery opportunities for streaming games, mini-apps, mini-games, chatbots, and plug-ins that are found within their apps." Apple also confirmed that "mini-apps, mini-games, chatbots, and plug-ins will be able to incorporate Apple’s In-App Purchase system to offer their users paid digital content or services for the first time, such as a subscription for an individual chatbot."

Apple says that this change comes as a result of feedback from the developer community and 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." The comment about the App Store being "trusted" is particularly notable given the way Apple explained why third-party app stores are not available outside of the EU — namely, the company believes the App Store is the only way to keep iPhone users safe from scams, malware, and other nastiness.

Now all eyes will be on Microsoft, Nvidia, and others to see how long it takes for them to pivot away from their existing web app offerings and towards real, dedicated apps that can then be distributed via the App Store. Netflix will also likely be one company keen to embrace this change having recently pushed into gaming in a big way.

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Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.