September 11, 2020
New rules for streaming game services and more
Apple has updated the App Store Review Guidelines with changes to rules related to streaming game services, hidden functionality in apps, and more.
Mainly, Apple now allows for streaming game services as long as the included games can be downloaded directly from the App Store. Apple has also clarified that so-called “Reader apps”, like Netflix, can offer account creation for free tiers, and they’ve now made it more clear that having hidden, dormant or undocumented features in apps are not allowed, an obvious reference to the Fortnite situation.
The complete changes can be seen below:
2.3 Accurate Metadata
Customers should know what they’re getting when they download or buy your app, so make sure your app description, screenshots, and previews accurately reflect the app’s core experience and remember to keep them up-to-date with new versions.
2.5 Software Requirements
- 2.3.1 Don’t include any hidden, dormant, or undocumented features in your app; your app’s functionality should be clear to end- users and App Review. All new features, functionality, and product changes must be described with specificity in the Notes for Review section of App Store Connect (generic descriptions will be rejected) and accessible for review. Similarly, you should not market your app on the App Store or offline as including content or services that it does not actually offer (e.g. iOS-based virus and malware scanners). Egregious or repeated behavior is grounds for removal from the Developer Program. We work hard to make the App Store a trustworthy ecosystem and expect our app developers to follow suit; if you’re dishonest, we don’t want to do business with you.
- 2.3.7 Choose a unique app name, assign keywords that accurately describe your app, and don’t try to pack any of your metadata with trademarked terms, popular app names, pricing information, or other irrelevant phrases just to game the system. App names must be limited to 30 characters and should not include prices, terms, or descriptions that are not the name of the app. App subtitles are a great way to provide additional context for your app; they must follow our standard metadata rules and should not include inappropriate content, reference other apps, or make unverifiable product claims. Apple may modify inappropriate keywords at any time or take other appropriate steps to prevent abuse.
- 2.5.16 App Clips, widgets, extensions, and notifications should be related to the content and functionality of your app. Additionally, all App Clip features and functionality must be included in the main app binary. App Clips cannot contain advertising.
3.2 Other Business Model Issues
- 3.1.2(a) Permissible uses: If you offer an auto-renewing subscription, you must provide ongoing value to the customer, and the subscription period must last at least seven days and be available across all of the user’s devices. While the following list is not exhaustive, examples of appropriate subscriptions include: new game levels; episodic content; multiplayer support; apps that offer consistent, substantive updates; access to large collections of, or continually updated, media content; software as a service (“SAAS”); and cloud support. In addition:
- You may offer a single subscription that is shared across your own apps and services, but these subscriptions may not extend to third-party apps or services. Games offered in a streaming game service subscription must be owned or exclusively licensed by the developerdownloaded directly from the App Store, must be designed to avoid duplicate payment by a subscriber, and should not disadvantage non-subscriber customers.
- Subscriptions must work on all of the user’s devices where the app is available. Learn more about sharing a subscription across your apps.
- Apps must not force users to rate the app, review the app, download other apps, or other similar actions in order to access functionality, content, or use of the app.
- As with all apps, those offering subscriptions should allow a user to get what they’ve paid for without performing additional tasks, such as posting on social media, uploading contacts, checking in to the app a certain number of times, etc.
- Subscriptions may include consumable credits, gems, in-game currencies, etc., and you may offer subscriptions that include access to discounted consumable goods (e.g. not part of a game publishing platform). Each game must be downloaded directly from the App Store, must be designed to avoid duplicate payment by a subscriber, and should not disadvantage non-subscriber customers. Subscriptions must work on all of the user’s devices where the app is available. Learn more about sharing a subscription across your apps.
Apps must not force users to rate the app, review the app, download other apps, or other similar actions in order to access functionality, content, or use of the app.
As with all apps, those offering subscriptions should allow a user to get what they’ve paid for without performing additional tasks, such as posting on social media, uploading contacts, checking in to the app a certain number of times, etc.
Subscriptions may include consumable credits, gems, in-game currencies, etc., and you may offer subscriptions that include access to discounted consumable goods (e.g. a platinum membership that exposes gem-packs for a reduced price).
- Apps that offer auto-renewing music and video subscriptions with prior approval by Apple may also be included in pre-defined bundles with cellular data plans offered in cellular carrier apps.
- 3.1.3 Other Purchase Methods: The following apps may use purchase methods other than in-app purchase. Apps in this section cannot, either within the app or through communications sent to points of contact obtained from account registration within the app (like email or text), encourage users to use a purchasing method other than in-app purchase.
- 3.1.3(a) “Reader” Apps: Apps may allow a user to access previously purchased content or content subscriptions (specifically: magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video). Reader apps may offer account creation for free tiers, access to professional databases, VoIP, cloud storage, and approved services such as classroomand account management apps), provided that you agree not to directly or indirectly target iOS users to use a purchasing method other than in-app purchase, and your general communications about other purchasing methods are not designed to discourage use of in-app purchasefunctionality for existing customers.
- 3.1.3(b) Multiplatform Services: Apps that operate across multiple platforms may allow users to access content, subscriptions, or features they have acquired in your app on other platforms or your web site, including consumable items in multiplatformmulti-platform games, provided those items are also available as in-app purchases within the app. You must not
- 3.1.3(c) Enterprise Services: If your app is only sold directly or indirectly target iOS users toby you to organizations or groups for their employees or students (for example professional databases and classroom management tools), you may use a purchasing method other thanpurchase methods in addition to in-app purchase to collect those payments. Consumer, and your general communications about other purchasing methodssingle user, or family sales must not discourage use of in-app purchase.
- 3.1.3(d) Person-to-Person Experiences: If your app enables the purchase of realtime person-to-person experiences between two individuals (for example tutoring students, medical consultations, real estate tours, or fitness training), you may use purchase methods other than in-app purchase to collect those payments. One-to-few and one-to-many realtime experiences must use in-app purchase.
- 3.1.3(e) Goods and Services Outside of the App: If your app enables people to purchase physical goods or services that will be consumed outside of the app, you must use purchase methods other than in-app purchase to collect those payments, such as Apple Pay or traditional credit card entry.
- 3.1.3(f) Free Stand-alone Apps:
Free apps acting as a stand-alone companion to a paid web based tool (eg. VOIP, Cloud Storage, Email Services, Web Hosting) do not need to use in-app purchase, provided there is no purchasing inside the app, or calls to action for purchase outside of the app.
- 3.1.5(a) Goods and Services Outside of the App:
If your app enables people to purchase goods or services that will be consumed outside of the app, you must use purchase methods other than in-app purchase to collect those payments, such as Apple Pay or traditional credit card entry.
- 3.1.5(b) Cryptocurrencies:
- 3.1.7 Advertising: Display advertising should be limited to your main app executable, and should not be included in extensions, App Clips, widgets, notifications, keyboards, watchOS apps, etc. Ads displayed in an app must be appropriate for the app’s age rating, allow the user to see all information used to target them for that ad (without requiring the user to leave the app), and may not engage in targeted or behavioral advertising based on sensitive user data such as health/medical data (e.g. from the HealthKit APIs), school and classroom data (e.g. from ClassKit), or from kids (e.g. from apps in the Kids Category), etc. Interstitial ads or ads that interrupt or block the user experience must clearly indicate that they are an ad, must not manipulate or trick users into tapping into them, and must provide easily accessible and visible close/skip buttons large enough for people to easily dismiss the ad.
4.5 Apple Sites and Services
- 3.2.2 Unacceptable
- (vi) Apps should allow a user to get what they’ve paid for without performing additional tasks, such as posting on social media, uploading contacts, checking in to the app a certain number of times, etc. Apps should not require users to rate the app, review the app, watch videos, download other apps, tap on advertisements, enable tracking, or take other similar actions in order to access functionality, content, use the app, or receive monetary or other compensation, including but not limited to gift cards and codes.
- (x) Apps offering personal loans must clearly and conspicuously disclose all loan terms, including but not limited to equivalent maximum Annual Percentage Rate (APR) and payment due date. Apps may not charge a maximum APR higher than 36%, including costs and fees, and may not require repayment in full in 60 days or less.
4.9 Streaming games
- 4.5.2 Apple Music
- (i) The MusicKit APIs let customers accesson iOS lets users play Apple Music and their subscription whilelocal music library natively from your apps and games. When a user provides permission to their Apple Music account, your app can create playlists, add songs to their library, and play any of the millions of songs in the Apple Music catalog. Users must initiate the playback of an Apple Music stream and be able to navigate using your app. They are intended for simple music playback by Apple Music subscribers. Users must initiate the playback of an Apple Music stream and be able to navigate using standard media controls such as “play,” “pause,” and “skip.” Moreover, your app may not require payment or indirectly monetize access to the Apple Music service (e.g. in-app purchase, advertising, requesting user info, etc.). Do not download, upload, or enable sharing of music files sourced from the MusicKit APIs, except as explicitly permitted in MusicKit documentation.
Streaming games are permitted so long as they adhere to all guidelines — for example, each game update must be submitted for review, developers must provide appropriate metadata for search, games must use in-app purchase to unlock features or functionality, etc. Of course, there is always the open Internet and web browser apps to reach all users outside of the App Store.
- 4.9.1 Each streaming game must be submitted to the App Store as an individual app so that it has an App Store product page, appears in charts and search, has user ratings and review, can be managed with ScreenTime and other parental control apps, appears on the user’s device, etc.
- 4.9.2 Streaming game services may offer a catalog app on the App Store to help users sign up for the service and find the games on the App Store, provided that the app adheres to all guidelines, including offering users the option to pay for a subscription with in-app purchase and use Sign in with Apple. All the games included in the catalog app must link to an individual App Store product page.
- 5.1.2 Data Use and Sharing
- (vi) Data gathered from the HomeKit API, HealthKit, ConsumerClinical Health Records API, MovementDisorder APIs, ClassKit or from depth and/or facial mapping tools (e.g. ARKit, Camera APIs, or Photo APIs) may not be used for marketing, advertising or use-based data mining, including by third parties. Learn more about best practices for implementing CallKit, HealthKit, ClassKit, and ARKit.
After You Submit
Once you’ve submitted your app and metadata in App Store Connect and you’re in the review process, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Rejections: Our goal is to apply these guidelines fairly and consistently, but nobody’s perfect. If your app has been rejected and you have questions or would like to provide additional information, please use the Resolution Center to communicate directly with the App Review team. This may help get your app on the store, and it can help us improve the App Review process or identify a need for clarity in our policies. If you still disagree with the outcome, or would like to suggest a change to the guideline itself, please submit an appeal.
- Bug Fix Submissions: For apps that are already on the App Store, bug fixes will no longer be delayed over guideline violations except for those related to legal issues. If your app has been rejected, and qualifies for this process, please use the Resolution Center to communicate directly with the App Review team indicating that you would like to take advantage of this process and plan to address the issue in your next submission.