Last month, a post from the GDC 2019 scheduling website hinted that Microsoft was preparing to launch a new software development kit that would sync your Xbox Live data to any compatible iOS app. This week, Microsoft confirmed the launch of the cross-platform mobile SDK, enabling developers to build achievements, Gamerscore, friend lists, clubs, and more into iOS and Android apps (via The Verge).
Game developers will be able to "pick and choose" the parts of Xbox Live they want to integrate into their apps, and all of the features will be enabled on the consumer side through a single sign-in to their Microsoft account. The company is using Minecraft as a template for what other developers can do in this space.
“We believe so strongly in community, and Xbox Live really being at the heart of our gaming community,” explains Kareem Choudhry, Microsoft’s gaming cloud chief in a media briefing this week.
“If you watch what we’ve done, especially with Minecraft, over the past few years we’ve taken Xbox Live to as many platforms as Minecraft is on as possible. Really uniting all those communities together with a consistent singular experience for those gamers.”
The new SDK is part of the "Microsoft Game Stack" initiative, which has the goal of bringing together Microsoft's tools and services to help both indie and AAA developers create games.
At the moment, there are a few iOS games with Xbox Live features like achievements, but they're only available in games that were released by Microsoft Studios. With the new SDK, these features will greatly expand to any developer willing to implement them into their iOS and Android apps, and progress made on mobile (like the player's gamerscore) will sync back to Xbox consoles.
Earlier news suggested the same abilities would be coming to Nintendo Switch, but at this time Microsoft said that it doesn't have "any specific announcements as it relates to Switch today." With the new SDK, Microsoft will have a chance to greatly expand its reach in the smartphone gaming market, which has boomed in recent years thanks to games like Fortnite and a renewed interest in mobile gaming from companies like Nintendo.