Facebook Blasts Apple After Facebook Gaming iOS App Approved — but Without Any Games

A new slugfest has erupted between two of Silicon Valley’s biggest corporations.

Apple, after repeatedly rejecting Facebook Gaming app for iOS devices, finally approved the social giant’s app for the App Store. However, Facebook had to strip out games entirely — allegedly because of Apple’s preconditions for it to be published in the App Store.

Facebook lashed out at Apple’s App Store policies, following some six months of trying to get its Facebook Gaming app for iOS approved.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, in a statement provided to Variety, said “Gaming brings people together. And that’s even more important today amidst the pandemic. Unfortunately, we had to remove gameplay functionality entirely in order to get Apple’s approval on the standalone Facebook Gaming app – meaning iOS users have an inferior experience to those using Android.”

Sandberg continued, “We’re staying focused on building communities for the more than 380 million people who play games on Facebook every month – whether Apple allows it in a standalone app or not.”

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Last fall, Apple launched Apple Arcade, a $4.99-per-month game subscription service stocked with dozens of games playable on iOS, Macs and Apple TV.

In announcing the Facebook Gaming app for iOS, the company pointedly released a screenshot composite (above) showing the app’s features — with a big “X” through “play.”

In April, Facebook launched the standalone Facebook Gaming app on Google Play and was planning to launch it on iOS at the same time. However, Apple rejected the standalone Facebook Gaming app back then — and at least five since then — citing app store guideline 4.7, which states HTML5 games are permitted as long as “code distribution isn’t the primary purpose of the app.”

Facebook said it made a formal appeal of the App Store decision via the system Apple announced in June at the virtual Worldwide Developers Conference. However, according to Facebook, it never received a response from Apple.

While Apple’s rejection of the Facebook Gaming app was premised on the conclusion that the primary purpose of the Facebook Gaming app is to play games, according to Facebook, about 95% of app activity on Android is from watching game livestreams. “We shared this stat with Apple, but no luck,” Facebook Gaming said in a Twitter thread Friday morning.

Vivek Sharma, VP of Facebook Gaming, also issued a statement about the situation.

“Even on the main Facebook app and Messenger, we’ve been forced to bury instant games for years on iOS,” Sharma said. “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. 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 awhile. We thank them for waiting this long.”