CMA publishes instructive Statement of Issues on its market study into mobile browsers and cloud gaming

The CMA released a Statement of Issues on its Mobile browsers and cloud gaming market investigation, yesterday. The CMA lists the following as potential measures to increase competition between browsers:  

  • Removing Apple’s restrictions on competing browser engines on iOS devices. 
  • Requiring Google and Apple to provide the same functionality for rival browsers. 
  • Requirements that make switching between browsers more straightforward. 
  • Choice screens to remedy the distortive effects of pre-installation.  
  • Requirements to enable users to choose their default browser for in-app browsing. 
  • Requirement for apps to respect the user’s default browser choice for in-app browsing. 
  • Remedies related to revenue sharing agreements. 

On cloud gaming, the CMA’s sole remedy is to remove Apple’s App Store restrictions on these services, as set out in paragraph 4.9 of the App Store Guidelines.  

Currently every game must be individually submitted to the App Store, and individually downloaded to the user’s device, which removes the key functionality of cloud gaming, namely that performance is not dependent on the processing capacity of the hardware.  

Apple justifies this restriction on tenuous security arguments, but also adds “there is always the open Internet and web browser apps to reach all users outside of the App Store”. This is disingenuous. As Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, stated in testimony, web apps suffer from “significantly higher latency and lower graphical quality”. [1] Further, discoverability and engagement are reduced by not being hosted on the App Store.  

Although the Google Play Store allows native cloud gaming apps, it restricts in-game purchases in the app. The free-to-play model of gameplay, the market for which is worth $90 billion – roughly 5 times the size of the premium paid market – is particularly reliant on these in-game purchases not only for their own monetisation but for user experience. [2] It should be noted that in-game purchases are accessible to users of Samsung devices.  

Thus, although Android’s policies are substantially less restrictive than Apple’s, this does not mean that Android should be considered the benchmark in the case.  

We at MOW would also encourage the CMA to consider the restrictions Google imposes and possible remedies to this additional issue.  

The important principle at stake is the performance of the open web and the ability of walled garden owners to degrade the quality of access to open web. As the Movement for the Open Web we are looking for the web, and for businesses using the web, to operate on an unrestricted and open basis, in accordance with its design.  

Nonetheless, the problems that the CMA has highlighted, and remedies proposed, are very welcome. We will be making more detailed technical submissions in due course.