Someone Made a Free Browser App to Play Stadia Games on iOS, and Then Apple Killed It

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Apple’s animosity toward cloud gaming services like xCloud and Stadia are well-known at this point, but one iOS developer Zach Knox thought he had a good solution. The free “Stadium” app runs a stripped-down browser on the iPhone and iPad designed specifically to play titles from Google’s Stadia streaming service. Well, it did. Apple removed the app from the App Store after it started to gain popularity, citing its esoteric API rules. 

Like other cloud gaming services, Stadia renders games in the cloud and streams that video to your devices over the internet. Stadia launched almost a year ago on Android and Chrome, but Apple has consistently refused to allow cloud gaming clients unless they adhere to the same rules as standalone apps. That means each game (and game update) needs to be reviewed and approved by Apple, and they all need to have individual store pages on the App Store. Clearly, that doesn’t mesh with the model of cloud gaming, which is probably Apple’s intent. 

Stadium was a clever workaround, as it used the WebKit engine that Apple requires for all browsers on its platform. There was no UI — Stadium simply loaded Stadia and let you stream games. It also tied into the iOS Bluetooth framework for controller support. The app launched just a few weeks ago, and Apple has already smacked it down. The developer now says the app has been removed because of the way it leveraged Bluetooth. 

Apple justifies its action by pointing to App Store Review Guideline section 2.5.1, which requires apps to only use public APIs “for their intended purpose.” In the case of Stadia, the dev “extended” WebKit to allow Stadia to access the Bluetooth stack. Without that, you wouldn’t be able to control your game. However, this isn’t the intended purpose of the API, so Apple is within its rights to block the app from its store. Since there’s no supported way to install software from another source, the app is effectively dead. Although, Knox says he has some plans for Stadium in the future. 

This once again leaves iOS users with no easy way to play Stadia titles on their devices. It’s unlikely Google will completely redesign its service to adapt to Apple’s app-centric rules, and Apple is never going to accept cloud gaming services that can circumvent Apple’s 30 percent cut of sales. It’s quite a pickle.

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