Monday, January 31, 2022

CMA Report on Apple Cloud Gaming Restrictions

Stijn Huijts, on the UK Competition and Markets Authority’s interim report:

When it comes to gaming on mobile devices, the great advantage of cloud gaming is that it can far exceed the technological capabilities of even the newest model smartphone, because the storage and processing occurs mostly in the Cloud. As a result, cloud gaming removes the restrictions of a phone’s storage and processing capabilities and therefore expands the range of games available on mobile devices. It therefore becomes less important for consumers who enjoy mobile gaming to have a top-end mobile device to be able to play the best games on a mobile device.


However, the forced reliance on web apps rather than being able to offer native apps on iOS is having a detrimental impact on cloud gaming. In particular, the CMA highlights that web apps are not listed or discoverable on the App Store. Users can only find them by navigating to the web app via a browser, they are not automatically added to the user’s home screen, and cannot send push notifications to re-engage users.


The CMA also had indications that a range of features and functionalities of cloud gaming services were hindered by using a web app over a native app. A key reason for this is another restriction by Apple: that all browsers on iOS must use Apple’s WebKit. WebKit lags behind other browser engines in functionality, in particular when it comes to support for web apps.


To determine the potential harm to competition from Apple’s decision to restrict cloud gaming, the CMA assessed what Apple’s incentives might be for these restrictions, looking at Apple’s own hardware, Apple’s control over how apps are discovered and accessed on iOS devices, and Apple Arcade, Apple’s own subscription service giving access to a catalogue of games.


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