It’s not a stretch to describe Apple’s iOS App Store as a “walled garden.” For some developers, particularly indie game developers, it’s closer to a black box where apps can be denied for obscure and torturous “violations” of App Store guidelines. But in a recent blog post, Apple announced that they would be making changes to the review process for App Store submissions, as well as provide a mechanism for developers to challenge guidelines in particular.
Historically, Apple’s review process has not been terribly transparent, nor has it been especially nuanced. The Facebook Gaming app recently got denied for the fifth time, owing to the free-to-play games built into it along with the live streaming capabilities. Indie smash The Binding of Isaac was rejected over its depiction of violence against children back in 2016. The 2013 ban of Auroch Digital’s Endgame: Syria over its depiction of the Syrian Civil War due to a guideline forbidding games which “solely target a specific race, culture, a real government or corporation or any other real entity” stands out as a particularly ridiculous example. And Molleindustria’s Phone Story in 2011 was practically a shot across Apple’s bow with the various minigames depicting the human and environmental costs of smartphone material sourcing. Its ban from the App Store on the vague charge of “excessively objectionable or crude content” had the developer calling Cupertino out for its censorship.
While the blog post contained a recap of events and changes coming in the wake of the WWDC20 developers’ conference, the actual announcement regarding the App Store guideline challenge process was only a single sentence in a four-sentence paragraph. The sentence immediately following it is a second announcement that bug fixes will no longer be delayed over guideline violations “except for those related to legal issues.” No further explanation is given, nothing to at least noddingly acknowledge the reason why the change was made in the first place.
How the new process works out, and how effective it will be, remains to be seen.