Well I guess we really can’t have nice things. About three weeks ago we told you about the Stadium app, a standalone web browser app that was built with the necessary features that allowed users of Google’s Stadia game streaming service to access and play games through that service on their iOS devices, all while using Apple’s approved tools and following their approved guidelines. Or at least that’s what we thought. In a post over on Reddit highlighting an announcement from Stadium’s developer Zachary Knox in Discord, it appears that Apple has taken issue with the way that Stadium, to quote the Apple Review team member who reached out to the developer, “[extends] WebKit with native APIs to connect with Bluetooth."
Now I am no developer and I am not very knowledgable when it comes to this sort of stuff, but it seems that using Apple’s WebKit to connect to the official Stadia web portal is fine, and using Bluetooth to connect to game controllers is fine, but using Bluetooth-connected controllers to actually control Stadia through the WebKit connection is NOT fine in Apple’s eyes. Again, I am a total laymen here but I don’t see the harm in allowing what Stadium was doing, and it definitely comes off as an excuse for Apple to boot Stadium from the App Store based on a technicality.
Interestingly, when Stadium was originally released it only supported MFi, Xbox, or PlayStation 4 controllers, and amusingly didn’t support Google’s own Stadia controller that is bundled with the service. However, since its release, Google themselves have updated the Stadia controller software so that it is now compatible with Stadium, so it certainly appears they were on board with what Zachary Knox was doing and obviously weren’t mad at their service being made available to Apple’s 2 billion-ish iOS users.
This also begs the question of how Microsoft hopes to bring their xCloud service to iOS early next year using a web app. The Google Stadia controller, as well as the forthcoming Amazon Luna controller, both connect through WiFi instead of Bluetooth, so in theory they shouldn’t be running afoul of these latest limitations that Apple is highlighting for Stadium. But xCloud will rely on players using their Xbox controllers which DO connect via Bluetooth, so it’ll be interesting to see what route they end up taking. Asking players to purchase a special controller to use with xCloud on iOS seems like a nonstarter to me.
Anyway, as of this writing Stadium is still available to downnload for free on the App Store, so it’s probably worth grabbing if you haven’t already, just… in case, I guess. Zachary Knox plans to release Stadium as open source in the next few weeks, so some of the more enterprising iOS users will likely find ways to install and continue using it even after it’s pulled. It’s also possible that removing the Bluetooth functionality and having it only support the Stadia controller over WiFi might be an alternative that Apple would approve for the App Store. Whatever the case, game streaming services are NOT going away, and in fact are only growing by the month it seems, so something will have to give if iOS users are going to be able to get in on the fun.