When Microsoft originally debuted their Project xCloud back in the fall of 2018, it seemed ripe with potential for opening up an entirely new gaming world to mobile device owners. In the time since Microsoft has been building out the feature set while also testing the game streaming service, and at the same time their Game Pass subscription service has been growing in both popularity and quality. Just this week they finally announced a September 15th launch date for xCloud as well as a number of new controller peripherals that are designed for using the service with your mobile device. One of the big negatives surrounding these announcements was that on launch xCloud would only be supported on Android devices, with iOS device support still up in the air. Well according to statements Microsoft has made to The Verge, it looks like they’re giving up on iOS altogether in the face of Apple’s strict App Store restrictions and instead will focus on providing their service to Android users only.
It’s no secret that Apple has some very strict, and sometimes nonsensical, guidelines for what is approved on their App Store. Back in February Microsoft was able to begin an iOS beta test of xCloud using Apple’s Testflight program but were only able to get that beta approved by offering just one game through xCloud, the Master Chief Collection of Halo games. Apple is strict about not letting other gaming storefronts exist in the App Store, and you probably remember the year-plus of hoops Valve had to jump through in order to get their Steam Link app approved. Ultimately it gained that approval by totally stripping access to the Steam Storefront from within the app, and allowing users to simply play the games already in their Steam library through Steam Link. I don’t know if some sort of compromise like this will be possible to get xCloud approved on the App Store down the road, but it appears Microsoft is giving up the battle for the moment to focus on next month’s xCloud rollout. The iOS and Android beta tests of xCloud were originally set to run through September 11th, and while that remains true for Android Microsoft has gone ahead and shut down the iOS Testflight early.
As someone who loves his Xbox and is a big believer in things like Game Pass being the future for gaming, this is incredibly disappointing news. I’ve accepted Apple’s strict and often strange restrictions in a number of situations over the years, whether I agreed with them or not, but this decision is really hitting too close to home. Game Pass is going to be a service I subscribe to for a long time, and being able to play all those Game Pass games via xCloud on my iPhone was a huge selling point to me. It’s even harder to swallow in light of the very enticing partnership Microsoft has announced with Samsung during Samsung’s Unpacked event today which sees the new Galaxy Note 20 devices get a special version of the Game Pass app and a bunch of cool additional features. I can only imagine how excited iPhone-owning gamers would be to see Microsoft announce something similar with Apple, but… welp. Microsoft says that “It’s our ambition to scale cloud gaming through Xbox Game Pass available on all devices" so perhaps they’ll try again once the commotion of launching the service has died down, and perhaps if iOS users are vocal enough about it to Apple, but I’m not holding my breath. There’s no possible way I could have imagined myself saying this a decade ago, but, maybe it’s time to switch to Android.
[via The Verge]