Apple is blocking Xbox Game Pass on iOS and the App Store; Microsoft is unhappy

Apple iPhone App Store

In a somewhat unusual statement, Microsoft complains about Apple’s policies on the App Store. Specifically, Apple is preventing iOS users from using Xbox Game Pass.

For some context, Microsoft released a beta version of its game streaming service, Project xCloud, on Android and iOS. This allows gamers to play Xbox games on their smartphones and other mobile devices through an app. The app is downloaded through Google Play and the App Store.

Since then, Microsoft has announced that Project xCloud is included with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. This means that Game Pass Ultimate subscribers can play the library of games on their phones using Project xCloud. The service goes live in September on Android. However, Apple is refusing to allow the full version on the App Store, and the beta just expired.

Why won’t Apple allow Xbox Game Pass on the App Store?

“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,” an Apple spokesperson told Business Insider. “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,” the spokesperson added.

The stated rationale here is that Apple wants to review each individual game released on Xbox Game Pass for iOS. The company has also blocked competitor Google from launching its Stadia game streaming service on the App Store.

Microsoft’s position

In response, Microsoft released the following statement:

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.


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My Take

It doesn’t look like Xbox Game Pass Ultimate or Google Stadia are coming to iOS devices anytime soon. My personal take is that Apple is denying its users choice and trying to undercut the competition. In comparison, Apple doesn’t require Netflix or Hulu to submit individual films and TV shows for approval. Congress is starting to take notice of its business practices, too, with a recent hearing in the House of Representatives.

What do you think of Apple’s position? Should they allow Xbox Game Pass on the App Store? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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