Microsoft blasts Apple over restrictive cloud gaming policies

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Microsoft is unhappy with Apple's cloud gaming policies.
Image: Unsplash | SCREEN POST

iPhone owners who were looking forward to trying out Microsoft’s xCloud game streaming service are probably going to be out of luck. As Microsoft gets closer to realizing its vision for cloud-based gaming it is seeking a way to get past a major hurdle—Apple’s restrictive App Store policies.

The iPhone maker doesn’t allow cloud gaming services like Microsoft’s upcoming xCloud or Google’s Stadia to appear on the App Store. Apple claims that the controversial policy is due to the fact that it can’t review every game being offered on such platforms.

Nonetheless, Microsoft didn’t hesitate to publicly denounce the stance. A spokesperson for the company told The Verge, “Apple stands alone as the only general purpose platform to deny consumers from cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass.”

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No Games for You

For Microsoft, Xbox Game Pass and xCloud are a major component of its strategy moving forward. The company has leaned heavily on its subscription platform as a source of revenue and popularity throughout the lifespan of the Xbox One console. All indications point towards the fact it will do so again with the Xbox Series X.

Not being able to host its xCloud app on the App Store could be a major blow to that plan.

Microsoft says that Apple is unfairly enforcing the rules of its App Store, specifically that it treats gaming apps differently than other media services. For instance, platforms like Netflix and Hulu are available despite the fact that Apple can’t review anywhere close to all of the content on them. That includes interactive content like “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.”

In a sense, Microsoft has a point. It does appear that gaming apps face more scrutiny than their non-gaming counterparts within Apple’s sphere of influence.

ESRB to the Rescue?

Although Apple can’t play through every game on a service like xCloud, it could use third-party ratings to vouch for the titles. At least, that’s what Microsoft argues.

“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,” it said in a statement.

Those ratings could serve as a way for Apple to avoid applying its policies to every single game. Yet, it doesn’t appear that the iPhone maker is interested in cooperating.

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Apple is trying to get its Apple Arcade subscription service off the ground. Having streaming platforms like xCloud and Stadia available to iOS users could certainly decrease interest in Apple’s own service.

Nonetheless, Microsoft seems driven to get xCloud to those players. It says, “We are committed to finding a path to bring cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to the iOS platform.”

Sadly, it doesn’t look like it will happen anytime soon. Microsoft also notes, “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… to gamers on iOS via the Apple App Store.”

For anyone looking forward to accessing cloud gaming on their smartphone, it appears that a switch to Android will be the right choice—at least for now.

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