Stadium browser returns to bring Stadia to iOS again for now

While Apple continues to forbid game streaming services from setting up shop on iPhones and iPads, some are finding ways to work around those limitations. One rather ingenious attempt to bring Google Stadia to iOS was, as expected, short-lived. Stadium, that browser-based workaround, was removed from the App Store last month after having been available there for a month. Now Stadium has returned but in a slightly different form and with one important limitation.

Apple's objection to game streaming services like Google Stadia and Microsoft xCloud is, at least on principle, based on security, privacy, and safety risks it poses to Apple's customers. In practice, it means that Apple would have very little control over what gets sold or offered on those third-party platforms, let alone exact some juicy tax from them. It's no surprise that Apple's proposed compromise would be to force game streaming platforms to submit each and every game for approval, just like regular iOS apps and games.

The Stadium web browser's unofficial workaround was pretty much to masquerade as a browser officially supported by Stadia and run it full-screen, without any distracting browser UI. Apple removed it for violating an app store policy not related to game streaming directly. Instead, the sin was connecting iOS's GameController APIs with WebKit, something that was not prescribed by Apple.

Stadium 1.2 fixes that by introducing a feature that overrides the browser's User Agent to get around that policy. The rest of the browser works just as before, meaning you're required to use a special authentication step to log into Stadia. That workaround for the workaround, however, has one unfortunate consequence. Only the Stadia Controller is guaranteed to work.

More than that, the Stadia Controller will work only if the gamepad and the iPhone or iPad are on the same Wi-Fi network. Bluetooth controllers may work but it's a hit or miss situation given iOS' own unreliable support for third-party controllers. It remains to be seen, however, how long this workaround will last until Apple finds some other grounds to remove Stadium again.