It was our colleagues at The Verge who revealed via internal emails that Microsoft had been looking for some time to distribute its Xbox-exclusive games on iPhone from standalone apps accessible in the App Store. It has become a difficult project due to the strict conditions Apple places on third-party players, such as a commitment that games are only downloadable via the App Store and nowhere else.
An impossible marriage between Apple and other critics in the sector?
With the development of the on-demand mobile gaming platform called Apple Arcade, it doesn’t seem like the Cupertino company has changed its decision about opening its media to other on-demand gaming platforms. So no Stadia, GeForce Now, or even Xbox Cloud Gaming can exist as such on iOS since every game that can be played on iOS has to be in the App Store.
Apple even changed some of its operating rules to encourage developers to create catalog apps that direct users to App Store listings. An approach that is not necessarily the most practical and comfortable for players.
Apple rules don’t help Microsoft
For Microsoft, these limitations are particularly difficult to manage with its current strategy of focusing on developing and democratizing video games through as many media as possible. Mobile platforms play a major role in the development of xCloud and it will be difficult for Microsoft to delete iOS users. Currently, the only way to access xCloud on iOS is through Safari, but using it is less efficient and more convenient than Android, which has a dedicated Xbox Cloud Gaming app. Apple spokesperson Adam Dima shared the reasons for rejecting Project xCloud on iOS.
“Unfortunately, Microsoft offered a version of xCloud that did not meet our App Store review guidelines, specifically the requirement to use in-app purchase to unlock features or add-ons. In an app.”
Karim Choudary, Head of Cloud Gaming at Xbox, did not agree with Adam Dima at all and replied:
“The reasons for disapproval have nothing to do with in-app purchase capabilities; we currently offer Xbox Cloud Gaming with a single Xbox Game Pass app in the Google Play Store without IAP enabled, for example, and we’ll do the same in the App Store if allowed. In addition to Xbox Game Pass, we were also open to offering a selection of single-player games on iOS, as we do today with titles like Minecraft.”
Apple’s restrictions will extend development times to adapt games to the specifics of iOS, while centralized access across a cross-platform will ease use for gamers and developers alike. In addition, the cross-platform will allow the audience to play on iOS to more easily find the titles they want, without drowning out the entire App Store. Finally, monitoring and updates will be more complicated for developers to setup if there is no platform connected to them. Laurie Wright, Director of Business Development at Microsoft said:
“We believe the issues described here will create frustration and confusion for customers, resulting in a sub-par experience on Apple devices compared to a similar experience on all other platforms.”
However, Lori Wright believes that the introduction of Xbox exclusive titles on iOS would be a great opportunity if Apple allowed access to the Game Pass catalog on its media.
“It will be an incredibly exciting opportunity for iOS users to gain access to exclusive AAA titles as well as Game Pass games.”
Despite these ambitions, the project is still not feasible because it would require the use of a streaming app, thus violating the App Store policies. Only time will tell if the situation will change and whether Apple will consider opening up new possibilities for Microsoft on iOS.