Starting Friday, Facebook is bringing its nascent cloud gaming service to iPhones and iPads through a web app people will be able to add to their homescreens like a native app. The site will let you play simple web games like Solitaire and match-threes and stream more graphically intensive titles like racing games.
But thanks to Apple’s rules, it’s unclear how people will find it, since third-party developers like Facebook are barred from steering their app users to websites featuring purchasing mechanisms that aren’t Apple’s own. It’s a huge point of friction with not just Facebook, but other gaming companies like Epic that have strongly protested Apple’s grip on iOS payments. Facebook’s library of web games, which include HTML5-based ones alongside more advanced titles that stream directly from the cloud, use the social network’s custom payments system called Facebook Pay to accept in-game purchases.
Facebook’s decision to bring its game platform to iOS via the web mimics the approach of Amazon and Microsoft, which have also released Progressive Web Apps, or PWAs, for their respective cloud gaming services to get around the App Store. Last year, Facebook complained loudly when Apple blocked its attempt to put games in a standalone app for iOS and said it would look into alternatives. Shortly after that, Apple changed its rules to allow for cloud-based games as long as they were submitted individually as apps to the App Store for review — a policy that Microsoft and others said didn’t address their desire to release their own gaming storefronts on iOS.