During my whole tech life, two companies were my accompany: Microsoft and Apple. The first opened the tech door for me with MS-DOS, the second is my friend at home for 15 years now.
All in between were all Xbox-devices up to the latest Xbox One X from which I thought I could use it for streaming on my iPhone very soon, thanks to Microsofts xCloud-service. As we all know, hope is probably the last thing to die and so mine vanished as Microsoft stated that xCloud won’t be coming to iOS on the same day where Redmond confirmed a strengthened and expanded partnership with Android-juggernaut Samsung. My first thoughts stretched from the ill will to prefer Android to arbitrariness but in the end — and with some hours of sleep between those thoughts — it seems that Apple’s App Store-guidelines and regulations are the only one to blame that iOS-users will be locked out from Microsofts xCloud.
What has happened?
So yesterday, Microsoft confirmed that it has ended its xCloud game service testing on iOS where the quite limited users (10000 maximum) were able to participate via the „TestFlight“-app since early 2020 while the broader launch is scheduled for somewhere in September. xCloud is the derivate for a modern streaming service like GeForce NOW or Google Stadia, so — in connection with a Microsoft Game Pass and probably your Xbox One — also iOS-users were intended to stream their games to their iPhone or iPad.
Although not everyone likes to reduce a 4K-TV-experience on a Xbox One to a mobile display, the option to stream your games to an iOS device for whatever reasons was quite appealing to me.
Our Project xCloud preview TestFlight period has ended on iOS and we are focused on delivering cloud gaming as part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to Android customers beginning September 15.
Microsoft told The Verge in this case.
Some thoughts on the „why?“
Thinking ahead as an Apple-fan for years, one could assume that the old rivalry between Microsoft and Apple was renewed again but that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. While Microsoft once learned that the apps are the key to the platform, Google-apps have always been available for iOS and so both big players (and founder of two game streaming services) have always played a big and productive role in Apple’s App Store. Especially the Microsoft-portfolio is something I use on a daily basis in private and the enterprise. Anyway, breaking the reasons down, we stumble over the fact that there isn’t anything like Google Stadia or GeForce NOW available on an app-basis in the App Store as well.
One common reason
The key (or the definite lock) is a fact that — unfortunately — resides within Apple’s responsibility as many of you already may have guessed.
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,
an Apple spokesperson told Business Insider.
Focusing on the Apple Store’s guidelines itself, we may find a term stating that an app can’t rely on streaming from the cloud. This finally means that cloud-based gaming services from Google (Stadia), GeForce NOW or — precisely — xCloud cannot be hosted on the iOS App Store due to obvious violation of those policies. There you have the seemingly showstopper for any service which may harm Apple Arcade, Apples own offer of over 100 downloadable, commercial-free gaming apps. Focusing on the term „downloadable“ we see that there is no byte streamed throughout Apple Arcade, so Cupertino keeps its own service within the boundaries of the rules and regulation stated above.
Reverse of the medal
While Apple’s point of view clearly polarizes, it was more than clear that Microsoft didn’t need much time to fire back with arguments from the opposite side: As I said above the ecosystem Microsoft is supporting after the downfall of Windows 10 Mobile is iOS AND Android while the focus is — more than obvious after the Samsung-announcement — on Android. Microsoft instantly shot back and accused Apple of “consistently treating gaming apps differently.” Here is gets clear that Microsoft is — by far — not happy that xCloud is being locked out from the App Store:
Apple stands alone as the only general purpose platform to deny customers from cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass,” a Microsoft spokesperson said. “And, it consistently treats gaming apps differently, applying more lenient rules to non-gaming apps even when they include interactive content.
Boom. Short but sweet, and even seen from an Apple-user’s point of view that owned every Xbox so far (and still waits for the new generation) it seems about time that Apple re-thinks its attitude towards streaming services, even if revenues are made outside the App Store (which may be yet another reason to ban those gaming services from Cupertino’s ecosystem) like, here, in connection with the Xbox game pass.
Apple has its rules and guidelines and always had. That’s the way the company gained success and its standards and reputation known nowadays. Alas, thinking ahead, it is now more than obvious that Microsoft turned towards Android rather than to iOS (what we have assumed before and especially after Bill Gates stating that his daily driver is no iPhone). With losing possibility of embracing the Xbox fan base wanting to stream their games onto mobile, Apple may think to protect Apple Arcade but both services affected are completely different.
While Apple Arcade is a nice addition to Apple’s portfolio and based upon downloadable, always-accessible games, Microsoft xCloud could be the addition for porting the living room-consoles onto a broader mass of iOS users which may have an effect especially on the tablet sector; a sector Android is definitely failing at. At the moment Apple slammed this door shut (and the same counts for the other game streaming services as well), a great chance to build a bridge out of the locked Apple-microcosm is consciously lost — and with it the chance to implement a real, modern, vendor-independent gaming platform of the future.
Think about it
Sorry Apple — I am with you most of the time, but this is one of the very few moments where I hope you’d be more open-minded towards the happenings outside Apple Park. The world moves on and not everything can and must be controlled and regulated in its whole — there are plenty of other fish in the sea and none of those streaming services directly compete with the offline-based Apple Arcade. This move is pure B/S and deep inside I know you know this, too — so think about it, on behalf of the gamers whose trust and devotion would still be a good match for the iOS-universe!