Insights Competition and Markets Authority launches market investigation into cloud gaming and mobile browsers

Back in June 2022, the CMA consulted on a proposed market investigation reference into the distribution of cloud gaming services through app stores on mobile devices and the supply of web browsers and browser engines on mobile devices. This followed publication of the CMA’s final report on its market study into mobile ecosystems and multiple calls for further direct action by the CMA since publication of its market study interim report in December 2021.

The CMA has now published the responses to its consultation and has decided to launch the market investigation.

The Mobile Ecosystem Market Study report found that Apple and Google have an effective duopoly on mobile ecosystems that allows them to exercise a stranglehold over operating systems, app stores and web browsers on mobile devices.

The CMA says that computer games are a multi-billion-pound industry in the UK, played by millions of people. There are already more than 800,000 users of cloud gaming services in the UK, but restrictions on their distribution on mobile devices could hamper growth in this sector, meaning UK gamers will miss out.

As for browsers, these are one of the most important and widely used apps on mobile devices, the CMA says. 97% of all mobile web browsing in the UK in 2021 happens on browsers powered by either Apple’s or Google’s browser engine, so any restrictions on these engines could have a major impact on users’ experiences.

Responses to the consultation revealed substantial support for a fuller investigation into the way that Apple and Google dominate the mobile browser market and how Apple restricts cloud gaming through its App Store. Many of the responses came from browser vendors, web developers, and cloud gaming service providers who said that the status quo is harming their businesses, holding back innovation, and adding unnecessary costs.

Web developers complained that Apple’s restrictions, combined with suggested underinvestment in its browser technology, lead to added costs and frustration as they have to deal with bugs and glitches when building web pages, and have no choice but to create bespoke mobile apps when a website might be sufficient.

Ultimately, the CMA says, these restrictions limit choice and may make it more difficult to bring innovative new apps to the hands of UK consumers. At the same time, Apple and Google have argued that restrictions are needed to protect users. The CMA’s market investigation will consider these concerns and consider whether new rules are needed to drive better outcomes. To read the CMA’s press release in full and for links to further information, click here.