6th Times a Charm?

Apple keeps rejecting Facebook's Gaming App

As if Apple didn’t have enough on their plate leading up to WWDC, Seth Schiesel broke this story for The New York Times:

Since February, Apple has rejected at least five versions of Facebook Gaming, according to three people with knowledge of the companies, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the details are confidential. Each time, the people said, Apple cited its rules that prohibit apps with the “main purpose” of distributing casual games.

Facebook Gaming may also have been hurt by appearing to compete with Apple’s own sales of games, two of the people said. Games are by far the most lucrative category of mobile apps worldwide. Apple’s App Store, the only officially approved place for iPhone and iPad users to find new games and other programs, generated about $15 billion in revenue last year.

This is worded poorly, in my opinion (either by Apple or by whomever relayed it), because it would seem less about a rejection of an app that does casual games, and more about the rejection of an app that does the distribution of said games. In other words, it has nothing to do with the games, it’s all about Apple not wanting to have another platform on top of their platform. This has been the case from day one. And I tend to think it’s less confusing for the consumer to not have apps that serve up other “mini apps” as it were.

That said, I see the other side. Say this wasn’t about games but rather books, for example. Should Apple ban apps that allow you to distribute books, such as Amazon’s Kindle app? (Yes, they do cripple it by not allowing you to buy books within the app — which I don’t think they should be allowed to do — but still, that app isn’t banned like the Facebook Games app is.) I guess it comes down to the question: what is an app? It’s all just data packaged together. So again, I could see why it’s a weird line to ban an app that distributes games while not banning one that distributes books.

Trying to get the Gaming app through Apple’s review process, Facebook then changed the design of the presentation of games in several ways, the people said. The colorful icons were removed in favor of a bland listing. The different games categories were removed to list all games at once. The ability to sort games was also taken away.
Facebook also included a version that looked almost exactly like how such games are presented already within the main Facebook app on Apple devices, which is a single unalphabetized, unsortable list, the people said.

Apple said no to each of them, pointing to the same rule, they said.

In Facebook’s most recent submission, the Gaming app did not include a separate tab for playable games and included no way for the user to choose from a wide selection of games to play, the people said. Instead, that version suggested certain games within the user’s news and activity feed.

Apple denied it.

Since then, Facebook has been weighing its next move. The company is considering releasing Facebook Gaming on Apple devices without playable games at all, the people with knowledge of the social network said. Another option, they said, is continuing to make playable games even more difficult for users to find within the app.

This is all just amazing. Facebook has gone out of their way — several times — to make the app significantly worse from a end-user perspective, just to try to appease Apple. That is ridiculous. And again, not something Apple should be pushing apps to “aspire” to, obviously! Was Facebook doing it just to troll Apple, or to make a point? Maybe! But it worked! This slots perfectly into the narrative being built against Apple right now. At the worst possible time for the company, no less.