In light of Apple’s recent about-face on Liyla and the Shadows of War, it’s interesting to look at Apple’s App Store review guidelines. One of the statements is:
If your App is rejected, we have a Review Board that you can appeal to. If you run to the press and trash us, it never helps.
The wording here is pure Jobs, but the thing that gets me is this statement is flat-out wrong. Most developers don’t have the contacts or a subject that results in a load of press. Generally, though, those who have ‘run to the press’ have found bizarre decisions Apple made about an app rapidly overturned. Perhaps the ‘and trash us’ bit is key. But certainly running to the press can help.
It’s also interesting looking at Apple’s other so-called ‘broader themes’:
We have lots of kids downloading lots of Apps. Parental controls work great to protect kids, but you have to do your part too. So know that we’re keeping an eye out for the kids.
This, I think, governs an awful lot of what Apple deems acceptable regarding app and game content, but the App Store has age gating. On that basis, I still find the following baffling:
We view Apps different than books or songs, which we do not curate. If you want to criticize a religion, write a book. If you want to describe sex, write a book or a song, or create a medical App.
Clearly, Apple isn’t really budging much on this, but it makes no sense to consider interactive content somehow ‘lesser’ than books or music when it comes to self expression. I recall during my fine arts degree that it was innovative for people to be creating interactive art, but that was during the 1990s. Now, apps and games are just another medium for working within. Treating them with kid gloves helps no-one.
We have over a million Apps in the App Store. If your App doesn’t do something useful, unique or provide some form of lasting entertainment, or if your app is plain creepy, it may not be accepted.
I actually like this one’s ‘plain creepy’ remark, although as ever with Apple, it’s almost like the vague language that politicians use, meaning you can apply all sorts of content to that rule if you want to kick out an app. As for ‘useful, unique or provide some form of lasting entertainment’, plenty of apps in the store arguably fail that test.
If your App looks like it was cobbled together in a few days, or you’re trying to get your first practice App into the store to impress your friends, please brace yourself for rejection. We have lots of serious developers who don’t want their quality Apps to be surrounded by amateur hour.
This is the other rule that really gets me. Amateur hour is everywhere on the App Store. There are thousands of truly terrible apps and games that are devoid of quality. I suppose it’s still helpful for Apple to argue people should aim higher, but it strikes me this rule has never been seriously adhered to.
We will reject Apps for any content or behavior that we believe is over the line. What line, you ask? Well, as a Supreme Court Justice once said, “I’ll know it when I see it”. And we think that you will also know it when you cross it.
“We won’t tell you what the rules are and can change them whenever we see fit.” It’s this kind of thing that is slowly putting off developers from creating innovative content for iOS. And times are changing.
I recall chatting to a lot of game devs at an event five or six years ago, and without exception they were thrilled about the platform. As they saw it, Apple was a major step up from existing players, who too often made onerous demands on developers. There was a kind of hands-off freedom in developing for iOS. But goodwill continues to be chipped away as developers almost randomly find apps and games blocked for no obvious reason. (And then, worse, you see other apps of the same kind approved, and the original sometimes making its way to the store many months later, far too late to make an impact or any money.)
But hey, at least Apple points out your app could trigger a bout of craziness:
This is a living document, and new Apps presenting new questions may result in new rules at any time. Perhaps your App will trigger this.