The UK's CMA (Competition and Markets Authority), which is the country's premier competition watchdog, has declared that Apple's ban on cloud gaming apps in its iOS App Store is anticompetitive. According to the CMA, the ban harms the sector and limits choice for gamers.
What did the CMA find about the Apple cloud gaming ban?
With Xbox hard at work developing a new cloud gaming stick and services like Geforce Now serving up major releases via cloud streaming, all eyes are on various tech giants' approaches to cloud gaming right now. Apple's approach has been, in short, to ban it entirely from the App Store, with the Cupertino titan imposing draconic restrictions on the way in which cloud gaming apps can operate on the store. Now, however, the UK's Competition and Markets Authority has declared this behavior to be anticompetitive in a new report, stating that it is "preventing [the mobile cloud gaming] sector from growing".
The report says that Apple and Google have an "effective duopoly" over the mobile space, which is a similar conclusion to the one drawn by the South Korean government last year. This allows them to essentially dictate the terms of the market, and without any kind of intervention, both companies will "maintain, and even strengthen, their grip over the sector". It's worth noting here, though, that it is entirely possible to download the Xbox Game Pass app via Google Play and stream games that way, whereas Apple doesn't allow this at all. You can stream Xbox games via your browser on iOS devices, but you can't do so through any kind of official App Store app. In order to investigate the matter further, the CMA is proposing to make a "market investigation reference", which would allow it to request information from relevant companies and develop legal solutions.
Apple's mobile ecosystem is drawing more and more criticism
This isn't the first time Apple has been accused of anti-competitive practices. Perhaps the most famous example of Apple drawing ire over its restrictive App Store policies is its ongoing battle with Epic, which began in 2020 after Fortnite attempted to bypass Apple's cut of in-game purchases. That battle is still raging today; earlier this year, 35 US states expressed their support of Epic after judges ruled that Apple's App Store didn't constitute a monopoly. It's worth stating here that Epic did also sue Google over Fortnite's removal from the Play Store, so it's not just Apple with which Tim Sweeney's studio has beef.
We'll have to wait and see what comes of the UK CMA's ruling regarding the App Store and cloud gaming. Hopefully, this leads to Xbox Game Pass being allowed back on the App Store, as having to go through browsers to play Xbox cloud games on iOS is annoying. Still, Apple is well-known for its closed ecosystem over which it maintains near-complete control, so we can't imagine this restriction being lifted anytime soon. As usual, we'll bring you more on this as soon as we get it.