The App Store is one of Apple’s major revenue sources, and it has strict rules about how those who use its products are able to access content. Games, for instance, are a huge incentive for Apple to lock behind the App Store’s walls.
And it looks like those rules, and Apple’s focus on making sure the App Store is the primary way iOS users can access apps/games, may be landing the company in some hot water. As is being reported by Nikkei on Wednesday, the Fair Trade Commission in Japan is reportedly looking into whether or not Apple had a hand in shutting down Yahoo Japan’s Game Plus service.
That service allowed users to stream full games, even ones designed for other platforms, and even play HTML5 games right from the browser. In both instances, that means those iOS users weren’t using the App Store to get and play those games.
According to the report, Yahoo Japan slashed the budget of the service just months after it launched, hindering it in a big way. The reason, based on information in the report, was due to pressure by Apple, according to unnamed partners at the service. It reportedly started filing complaints with Japan’s FTC right around the same time.
The streaming service from Yahoo Japan was designed to bypass the digital storefronts, offering up better deals for developers, as stated by Nikkei. And the platform was certainly starting to gain speed, because major developers like Square Enix, the developer behind the Final Fantasy titles, developed a game exclusively for the platform. It has since been pulled, though.
Another wrinkle is the presence of SoftBank:
“SoftBank Group has stepped in to mediate, a source with knowledge of the situation said. The investment powerhouse, Yahoo’s largest shareholder, collects payments made by its cellphone subscribers to the App Store for Apple and keeps a portion of the revenue for itself. This intermediary role leaves SoftBank’s position with regard to the situation unclear.”
For those keeping track, this is the second run in with Japan’s FTC recently, with an antirust case against Apple being raised there. In that case, Apple was said to have forced a specific payment scheme on service providers that sell the iPhone. Apple, however, agreed to make changes, and, as a result of that, wasn’t penalized.