Microsoft's xCloud and Xbox Game Pass Not Coming to iOS Due to Apple's Restrictions [Updated]
Microsoft's "Project xCloud" streaming game service that pairs with its Xbox Game Pass won't be available on iPhone and iPad when it launches this September, and Apple's App Store restrictions are to blame.
Xbox Game Pass and its accompanying xCloud streaming feature offer access to hundreds of games that can be streamed to mobile devices, and Apple says that because it can't review each game available through Game Pass, it can't be allowed on the App Store.
In a statement to Business Insider, an Apple spokesperson said that the restrictions are designed to protect consumers and provide a level playing field to developers.
"The App Store was created to be a safe and trusted place for customers to discover and download apps, and a great business opportunity for all developers. Before they go on our store, all apps are reviewed against the same set of guidelines that are intended to protect customers and provide a fair and level playing field to developers."
"Our customers enjoy great apps and games from millions of developers, and 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. In addition to the App Store, developers can choose to reach all iPhone and iPad users over the web through Safari and other browsers on the App Store."
Project xCloud, a new arm of the Xbox Game Pass feature that lets users download games to a PC or Xbox, will provide streaming access to more than 100 games for $15 a month, with games able to be played on smartphones and tablets. It's designed to be like Netflix for games.
In a statement, a Microsoft spokesperson said that the company wants to make Game Pass available on all devices, but there's no info on iOS at this time.
"It's our ambition to scale cloud gaming through Xbox Game Pass available on all devices, but we have nothing further to share at this time regarding iOS."
Microsoft has known that it would be difficult to launch the streaming gaming service on iOS since beta testing began. When the TestFlight version of the app was released for iOS users, Microsoft said that the preview experience would "look and feel different" on iOS because of Apple's limitations. iPhone and iPad users testing the feature could only stream games from the cloud and not from an Xbox console, eliminating the pick up and play on any device option.
Microsoft was also only able to make one game available on TestFlight, "Halo: The Master Chief Collection" because Apple's App Store rules require games in a game subscription to be owned or licensed by the developer.
Google offers a similar streaming gaming service called Google Stadia, which Apple has not allowed on the App Store. Stadia can be accessed on Android devices, but not on iPhones and iPads. The same goes for Nvidia's streaming gaming service, GeForce Now.
Valve also ran into trouble when attempting to make Steam Link available on iPhones and iPads, with Apple rejecting the app after it was submitted for review.
Valve was ultimately able to launch the app by removing the ability to purchase apps from within the Steam Link store, which may have led Apple to ultimately approve the app.
Steam Link is designed to allow you to play your own Steam games on an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV, streaming from a Mac or PC, so it is somewhat different than Google Stadia and Project xCloud, services that make a catalog of games available.
Update: In a statement to CNET, Microsoft said it does not have a path to bring its app to the iOS App Store.
Our testing period for the Project xCloud Preview app for iOS has expired. Unfortunately, we do not have a path to bring our vision of cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to gamers on iOS via the Apple App Store. 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. All games available in the Xbox Game Pass catalog are rated for content by independent industry ratings bodies such as the ESRB and regional equivalents. We are committed to finding a path to bring cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to the iOS platform. 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. We agree.