Facebook cloud gaming on iPhones and iPads is an unsurprising mess

Facebook wants to dip its hands on anything that can be related to social engagement, and, to no one's surprise, that included gaming. Trying to reclaim its once glorious position as the trailblazer in web games, Facebook created its own Gaming sub-brand, which is both about live streaming game plays as well as streaming games. In expanding its reach to iOS and iPadOS, Facebook has hit a snag with Apple's strict app store policies, forcing it to offer a rather basic and inconsistent web app experience instead.

Apple is unbending when it comes to game streaming services on iOS, something that Google and Microsoft already experienced first-hand. At first, Apple disallowed cloud streaming services altogether but eventually offered a compromise that came at a high price. In essence, each and every game that a service will offer would have to pass through Apple's review process first.

That has forced game streaming service providers to come up with a workaround that Facebook is now also using. Just like with Google Stadia, Xbox Cloud Gaming, and NVIDIA GeForce, Facebook has resorted to using web apps to deliver its games. Apple's app policies do allow HTML5 games since code isn't stored on the device, though even that comes with some caveats.

Facebook Cloud Gaming, however, isn't completely in the clear despite having found a way around Apple's strict rules. Running in Safari, these HTML5 games won't be able to maximize the full hardware of an iPhone or iPad the way a native gaming app would be able to. More importantly, however, game developers and publishers are prohibited from linking to their HTML5 Facebook game from within the Facebook iOS apps since Facebook Gaming has its own payment system out of Apple's.

Facebook Cloud Gaming is clearly off to a rough start, both in technical performance as well as discoverability. The social networking giant isn't that big a name in the gaming industry yet, but a broken experience on Apple's mobile devices could hamper its chances of growing into one.