Thursday, March 11, 2021 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Roblox in the App Store

Ben Thompson:

In short, Roblox isn’t a game at all: it is world in which one of the things you can do is play games, with a persistent identity, persistent set of friends, persistent money, all disconnected from the device that you use to access the world.

[…]

[By] controlling everything Roblox can bring all of the disparate parts of gaming into one place; instead of one app for social interactions, another app for purchases, and a different app for every different game, everything is all in the same place.

[…]

That’s the screen you see when you launch the app, and I have to say, it looks an awful lot like an App Store! That’s a problem because Apple states in its App Store Guidelines that “Creating an interface for displaying third-party apps, extensions, or plug-ins similar to the App Store or as a general-interest collection” is “unacceptable”.

On one hand, perhaps Roblox is fine because these are not 3rd-party App Store apps, unlike, say, the rejected Facebook Gaming app. But then again, Xbox Game Pass wants to launch 3rd-party games that run in the cloud, not on the iPhone at all, and Apple also said no.

And, unlike xCloud, Roblox downloads the game code, which is also forbidden:

2.5.2 Apps should be self-contained in their bundles, and may not read or write data outside the designated container area, nor may they download, install, or execute code which introduces or changes features or functionality of the app, including other apps.

David Heinemeier Hansson:

Great example of Apple’s infinite contradictions with the App Store.

Previously:

10 Comments

@DHH: “Great example of Apple’s infinite contradictions with the App Store.”

Apple is 100% entitled to carve out special exceptions for a particular supplier as it sees fit, just as it is 100% not-obliged to explain to its other suppliers why they don’t get the same deal. Sure it’s frustrating, but that’s business. You can live by Apple’s whim, you can take your product elsewhere, or you can get big and important enough (as Roblox have) to dictate your own terms. Whining about it achieves nothing except revealing you for the dilettantes you are.

@has,
Apple is entitled to carve out whatever deals they want. But then they can't, as they now claim, say everyone plays by the same rules.

@has, there are two kinds of companies in the world. There are the mega-corporations which set the rules for everyone, and there's everybody else who tries to survive in the system they create.

All small businesses are subject to the system of rules created by Google/Facebook/Apple/Amazon/BP/Toyota/AT&T/etc, and also the rules created by our governments. When we speak out against government rules and regulations which hurt us, that's called "democracy". When we speak out against corporations, apparently you call that "whining".

If "dilettante" is the opposite of "robber baron", then I'll wear that badge with pride. There's nothing dishonorable about calling a foul when we see it. I'm not any less serious in the pursuit of my craft just because I'm not as big as Apple -- just as Apple weren't when they were a garage startup facing IBM.

>Whining about it achieves nothing except revealing you for the dilettantes you are

I'm not sure if this is intended to be a serious argument, or a parody of the hilariously bad arguments Apple's hardcore fans tend to make - the abstruse use of the word "dilettantes" makes me think it's the latter. Given Apple's history, it's very obvious that "whining" achieves a lot, and is the most effective - and often only - weapon people have to influence Apple's behavior.

@Chris: “But then they can't, as they now claim, say everyone plays by the same rules.”

Of course they can say it. They’re lying, obviously, but whatchagonnado?

@Plume: “Given Apple's history, it's very obvious that "whining" achieves a lot, and is the most effective - and often only - weapon people have to influence Apple's behavior.”

Sent from your xMac via your bug-free copy of Mail?

Honestly, Apple doesn’t even get out of bed for less than 10 million customers. A few indie developers getting ratty about rules is neither notable nor noticeable where Apple is concerned. Heck, it wouldn’t even bow to Epic†, and they can afford to buy US congress critters to harrass them.

@Sam: “There's nothing dishonorable about calling a foul when we see it.”

That’s nice. Although you’ll have to call a lot louder for Tim Cook to hear it over the sound of all his money. Again, Apple doesn’t even get out of bed for less than 10 million customers.

I have no interest in arguing whether Apple’s behavior is good or bad; only in pointing out that it is the way of the world. And clearly it works for them (inasmuch as Apple is just a middling machine for printing money now). A few snotty old Mac fans getting the hump concerns Apple not one jot.

You want to influence Apple’s behavior? Either come at them with your own billion-dollar business (still small fry but big enough to be noticed) or recruit several tens of millions of their customers to your personal army (still only a fraction, but again big enough to be noticed). Anything much less than that and you’re only impressing an audience of one.

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† Thinking about it, it does make sense for Apple to play really super nice with Robloxs, because that’s Apple’s customer base of tomorrow right there. Whereas Epic? Meh. Campers, griefers, and incels do not a wonderful iMarket™ make. Apple may earn nice pocket money out of apps and services but it’s still its flogging of premium-priced handsets that dictates everything else. So again, unless you’re handing them at least million new iPhone customers annually then your negotiating strength is a flat zero and you’re just embarrassing yourself.

>Apple doesn’t even get out of bed for less than 10 million customers

Apple reversed a ton of decisions because people on Twitter whined loudly enough. Whining about stuff does work, as evidenced by you whining about people who whine. Apparently, you also seem to think that it does something, otherwise, why take the time.

@Plume: “Apple reversed a ton of decisions because people on Twitter whined loudly enough.”

Which decisions? Be specific. Cos I can guarantee it wasn’t the “whining on Twitter” part that did it. Legal peril, legislative peril, bad [inter]national press, sales down a hole; those are the things that make Apple take notice†.

One historical example I can think of is the FCPX debacle, which was a good example of Apple trying to treat a narrow vertical professional market as if it was a general consumer one, and getting egg on its face as a result. But that wasn’t the Twitter whining but the imminent threat of losing that market that forced Apple’s hand. And even then it didn’t reverse course; it merely continued to distribute FCP7 a bit longer than it had planned to provide customers with a transitional path. Likewise, the dustbin Mac Pro (another tone-deaf Apple moment) wasn’t junked due to Twitter whining (of which there was plenty), it was junked due to crap sales.

A more recent case would be revising its cut of AppStore sales to a more progressive tax. Again, that wasn’t the Twitter whiners kicking off; that was concern about big government sticking its oar in to regulate how they do business. Which is always a threat when one approaches global duopoly/monopoly status. (Remember the EU kicking off about Microsoft bundling a web browser in Windows? Good times.) The only reason it ever took a 30% cut was because it could. Why provide politicos with extra ammo if it doesn’t need to? 99% of apps on AppStore don’t generate squat for revenue as far as Apple is concerned; it’s the handful of apps (games) that do 100M sales where the real money is, and still is.

Don’t mistake yourselves for the rooster proud that his crowing wakes the sun up every morning. Apple makes its decisions according to what will (or won’t) continue to sell a quarter-billion iPhones each year. Your whining or mine plays no part in those decisions; nor should it‡.

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† On a good day. Honestly, someone should have a word with them about their chronic mishandling of the Edu market as a key future influencer, cos you can bet your bottom dollar that Roblox ships on Chromebooks too and Alphabet won’t be nearly so careless.

‡ Here’s another really good rule of business: never be afraid to sack your customers who are more trouble than they’re worth.

>Which decisions? Be specific

I don't need to be more specific because I know that you read this blog, so you already know of plenty of examples where Apple did something weird, like ban an app for arbitrary reasons. After weeks of nothing happening, and Apple being unresponsive, the developer talked about it, then everybody whined on Twitter, and then Apple magically changed its mind.

This kind of thing happens all the time, both when it comes to small things like app approval, but also when it comes to much larger things, like factory conditions in China.

>Cos I can guarantee it wasn’t the “whining on Twitter” part that did it

I'm pretty sure that you know that you're wrong, and you're just arguing because you think it's fun. I'm sure it's a lot of fun for you to try and defend plainly wrong, obviously absurd positions, while insulting people who try to explain to you why you're wrong. For everybody else, it's a bit of a nuisance, though.

Why don't you write a letter to the editor to the NYT or something, and explain to them why journalism is pointless. I'm sure that would be a lot more fun for you than commenting on this blog. Then we could go back to having actual good-faith discussions here.

I don't need to be more specific because I know that you read this blog, so you already know of plenty of examples where Apple did something weird, like ban an app for arbitrary reasons.

Hitchens’ Razor.

After weeks of nothing happening, and Apple being unresponsive, the developer talked about it, then everybody whined on Twitter, and then Apple magically changed its mind.

Correlation != Causation.

Operating on unevidenced assertions and blind assumptions is a poor way to build a reliable #ForceForChange.

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