Why Microsoft’s xCloud game streaming won’t be available on Apple devices

7 Aug 2020

Image: © Aleksei/Stock.adobe.com

Despite positive early signs, it has been confirmed that xCloud video game streaming will not be coming to the App Store.

The launch of xCloud next month has been sullied for iPhone users with confirmation that the video game streaming app will not be available on iOS.

Due to launch on 15 September, xCloud is Microsoft’s Netflix-style solution for gamers. The streaming platform will offer users cloud-based access to more than 100 games via mobile devices. Users will even be able to pick up a game where they left off from device to device.

This comes after years of development into pairing the Xbox Game Pass subscription, which currently allows users to download and play games on their console or PC, with Microsoft’s Project xCloud streaming service.

Microsoft began trialling a beta version of xCloud on iOS earlier this year, but ceased testing this week after releasing details of the upcoming launch in 22 countries for Android devices only.

Why has Apple said no to xCloud?

In a statement to Business Insider, Apple confirmed that streaming apps such as xCloud violate the terms of the App Store because they offer access to further apps within the app, which have not been vetted by the App Store.

“Gaming services can absolutely launch on the App Store as long as they follow the same set of guidelines applicable to all developers, including submitting games individually for review, and appearing in charts and search,” said Apple.

‘Apple consistently treats gaming apps differently, applying more lenient rules to non-gaming apps even when they include interactive content’

Speaking to The Verge, a Microsoft spokesperson explained that its library contains games already rated by regional bodies such as the US Entertainment Software Rating Board and that further validation from Apple should not be required.

“Apple stands alone as the only general-purpose platform to deny consumers from cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass. And it consistently treats gaming apps differently, applying more lenient rules to non-gaming apps even when they include interactive content,” the spokesperson said.

Are other game streaming services available on iOS?

While other streaming apps have been allowed to operate on the App Store, for developers this has often come as a compromise. The company behind Shadow, for example, ran up against these restrictions and decided to change the functionality of its app so that it operates more like a remote desktop service, which is permissible within the App Store guidelines.

Microsoft’s spokesperson said the company is “committed to finding a path to bring cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to the iOS platform” at some point, though it will not be available at launch.

Stadia, the streaming platform from Google, is also unavailable on Apple devices, and the statement from Apple this week has offered clarification on why game streaming apps have been hard to come by on iOS.

Apple’s own video game subscription service, Apple Arcade, launched in September last year and its approach to limiting competitors in this marketplace via App Store restrictions has been raised as an antitrust issue.

“We believe that the customer should be at the heart of the gaming experience and gamers tell us they want to play, connect and share anywhere, no matter where they are,” said Microsoft’s spokesperson.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.