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Apple’s App Store Rules Limit Rival Gaming Services While Arcade Runs Free

New streaming offerings from Microsoft, Google and Nvidia struggle to reach a billion iPhone and iPad users.

Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., speaks about Apple Arcade.

Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., speaks about Apple Arcade.

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Video-game fans suddenly have their pick of a huge menu of titles thanks to a raft of new mobile subscription services from Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Nvidia Corp.

But for the more than 1 billion users of Apple’s iPhone and iPad, the only real option is Arcade, the subscription service launched by the company in September.

That's because Apple imposes strict limits on the kinds of apps users can access on its devices. For example, App Store guidelines ban services that rely on streaming from the cloud. Arcade adheres to the requirements, in part, because it’s included as a feature within the App Store itself. This is the latest example of what critics say are arbitrary rules favoring Apple’s own apps at the expense of similar software from outside developers.