The Facebook Gaming app finally landed in the App Store on Friday, several months after it made it to Android devices. The delay isn’t the only downside, though. According to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, iOS users will get a considerably “inferior experience” due to Apple’s App Store policies.
The app allows users to livestream video games, much like the ultra-popular Twitch app. And the Android version includes mini-games users can play. But not the iOS version. “We had to remove gameplay functionality entirely in order to get Apple’s approval on the standalone Facebook Gaming app,” she said.
Facebook reportedly has been trying to get the app into the App Store since February. However, according to Business Insider, Apple rejected the app six times before approving it. (Cupertino is supposedly tough to work with when it comes to launching cloud-based gaming services.)
This is similar to what Facebook had to do with iOS versions of its main Facebook and Messenger apps. Facebook’s VP of Facebook Gaming Vivek Sharma says the company has had to “bury instant games for years” in order to be allowed into the App Store.
“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,” Sharma said. “And while it’s disheartening to deliver only part of the Facebook Gaming app experience on iOS, our gaming creators have asked for it for a while. We thank them for waiting this long.”
The Facebook Gaming app is available to download from the App Store here.
Facebook and Apple: A fraught relationship
Facebook and Apple have had a somewhat mixed relationship over the years, seemingly getting more contentious with time. In Facebook’s early days, the two companies were tight. In fact, Apple gave Facebook its first big, regular cash injection. To gain access to the college crowd Facebook was targeting, Apple inked a sponsorship deal that would pay Facebook $1 per month for every user who joined its page — with a monthly minimum of $50,000.
Steve Jobs also took on something of a mentorship role with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. They went on walks together, and discussed Apple’s foray into social networking, Ping, over dinner. Jobs even suggested that Zuck took a pilgrimage to India to, literally, follow in the Apple co-founder’s footsteps.
But things have gotten worse since then. Apple CEO Tim Cook has had few nice things to say about Facebook following the social network’s Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal. In the book Facebook: The Inside Story, tech journalist Steven Levy writes how Zuckerberg “felt sideswiped” by Apple’s reaction.
Later, Apple plunged Facebook into temporary chaos by breaking its internal apps in January 2019. This followed Apple’s discovery that Facebook took advantage of its Apple developer certificates to distribute a “research” app outside of the App Store. This violated Apple’s privacy policies.
During last week’s tech antitrust hearing in Congress, Zuckerberg made comments that could easily be interpreted as throwing Apple (and other tech giants) under the bus. “In many areas, we are behind our competitors,” Zuck said. “The most popular messaging service in the U.S. is iMessage. The fastest growing app is TikTok. The most popular app for video is YouTube. The fastest growing ads platform is Amazon. The largest ads platform is Google.”