Facebook is speaking out against Apple’s App Store policies. The company says it has faced months of rejections for its Facebook Gaming app on iOS, and has been forced to remove its Instant Games from the app. Facebook is not happy.

Facebook is not happy with the months of rejections it has faced
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge
Facebook is joining Microsoft in condemning Apples App Store policies today. The social media company is launching its Facebook Gaming app for iOS primarily an app used to watch streamers play video games but has had to remove the apps mini games feature to pass Apples strict App Store approval process. Facebook isnt happy about the compromise.
Unfortunately, we had to remove gameplay functionality entirely in order to get Apples approval on the standalone Facebook Gaming app meaning iOS users have an inferior experience to those using Android, said Sheryl Sandberg, Facebooks chief operating officer in a press statement given to The Verge. Were staying focused on building communities for the more than 380 million people who play games on Facebook every month whether Apple allows it in a standalone app or not.
Facebook says it has had the Facebook Gaming app rejected multiple times by Apple in recent months. The company says Apple has cited App Store guideline 4.7 to justify the rejections, claiming the primary purpose of the Facebook Gaming app is to play games. Facebook says it shared usage data from its Android Facebook Gaming app that showed 95 percent of activity is watching streams, but this didnt change Apples stance.
Facebook Gaming on iOS lacks its Instant Games.
Apple unveiled an appeal process for situations like this at WWDC back in June, but Facebook says it tried this and failed to convince Apple to overturn its decision. We even appealed the guideline under the new app review process announced at WWDC, says a Facebook spokesperson. We did not receive a response.
Facebook has now been forced to give up and remove games entirely from the standalone app launching on iOS today. The Facebook Gaming app is primarily used to watch streams of games, much like Twitch is used on both iOS and Android. But on Android, the app also includes a number of mini games from Facebooks Instant Games platform. Thats what Apple wont allow.
This isnt the first time that Facebook has run into App Store issues, either. Even on the main Facebook app and Messenger, weve been forced to bury Instant Games for years on iOS, explains Facebook Gaming chief Vivek Sharma in a statement to The Verge. This is shared pain across the games industry, which ultimately hurts players and devs and severely hamstrings innovation on mobile for other types of formats, like cloud gaming.
Microsofts xCloud service.
Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge
Apple is facing growing criticism from rivals and the gaming industry to loosen its App Store restrictions. Microsoft was forced to cut its xCloud iOS testing earlier this week, after App Store policies have been preventing the company from launching the app for months. Microsoft took the unusual decision to condemn Apple yesterday, saying Apple stands alone as the only general purpose platform to deny consumers from cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass.
Apple has defended its decision to block cloud gaming services like xCloud, Stadia, and GeForce Now from the App Store. Our customers enjoy great apps and games from millions of developers, and gaming services can absolutely launch on the App Store as long as they follow the same set of guidelines applicable to all developers, including submitting games individually for review, and appearing in charts and search, said an Apple spokesperson in a statement yesterday.
Apples argument is that the company cant individually review games offered on streaming services, but the company doesnt seem to have the same issues with services like Netflix or YouTube that stream millions of videos, TV shows, and movies to Apples iOS devices that Apple cant possibly review.
Apples latest weak App Store excuse comes just months after the company was embroiled in a bitter battle over the new Hey email app. Apple eventually approved the app after the initial rejection drew widespread condemnation from lawmakers and developers. Apple is part of a number of US tech companies currently facing potential antitrust action. The EU has also opened up a formal antitrust investigation into Apples App Store and Apple Pay practices. With Microsoft and Facebook openly criticizing Apple, the company is bound to face even more questions over its App Store policies in the months ahead.