May 23, 2022

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Xbox exclusives almost found their way into the App Store, and Apple didn't let that happen

Xbox exclusives almost found their way into the App Store, and Apple didn’t let that happen

Several media outlets reported that last year Microsoft was very close to introducing Xbox Cloud Gaming to iOS devices, but eventually gave up because it was difficult to comply with the App Store guidelines.

Have discussions with Apple

It’s Microsoft’s private email exchanges that The Verge has access to that reveal the company has been eager to bring Xbox Game Cloud, hitherto known as Project xCloud, to iPhone and iPad. The first tests of xCloud on iOS are said to have taken place in February 2020, but Apple ended that in August with a message that the service is not allowed in the App Store.

The crux of the problem was how the service worked: xCloud plays games on Microsoft servers, not locally. Apple is said to have denied this on the grounds that it couldn’t allow apps that could serve as an alternative to the App Store, and that the only allowed form of game streaming was if games were launched as individual apps.

Microsoft offered alternative solutions

Some emails suggest that Microsoft has found it difficult to run all the games as separate apps, both because of the huge resources that would have to go into this, and because doing so would lead to frustration among customers. According to Microsoft, this should result in a weaker gaming experience compared to other platforms.

They also suggested new ways to solve the challenge. Among other things, they wanted to offer individual shortcuts to games instead of full apps, but this also didn’t apply to Apple. Microsoft has discussed shortcuts as a good solution as each game gets its own page on the App Store with individual descriptions and reviews, but it directs the user to the Xbox Cloud Gaming app.

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As it appears in the emails, Microsoft believes that money is the reason for the other party’s denial of access to the App Store. Many games have in-game content purchase opportunities, with payment methods that do not use Apple’s solution.

To The Verge, Apple acknowledges that this was one of the reasons xCloud is not allowed in the App Store.