Microsoft has stopped mincing words, and in a statement shared with Gizmodo, claims that Apple is entirely to blame for the lack of cloud gaming apps and subscription services on iOS.
As we’ve reported repeatedly, there’s no option to enjoy Stadia, Nvidia GeForce, or Microsoft’s own Project xCloud on iOS devices. In the past, Microsoft and Google have both demurred when Gizmodo has asked them about this, while Nvidia told Gizmodo to “ask Apple” when we queried back in January.
When I spoke with Microsoft in May, the company pointed out that there was a beta for Project xCloud, its streaming service, available for iOS users. That beta was distributed via TestFlight, an Apple-owned service for developers to distribute beta software to select iOS users.
TestFlight betas are frequently temporary, and the period for the Project xCloud beta ended yesterday. At the time, Microsoft expressed optimism that Project xCloud and other cloud gaming services would eventually make their way to iOS.
Now, a Microsoft spokesperson has passed along a statement squarely laying the blame at Apple’s feet and saying that the company sees no path forward for cloud gaming on iOS via the Apple App Store. The statement is below, and bolding is our emphasis:
“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.”
Earlier this summer, Microsoft President Brad Smith began making noise about Apple’s restrictive App Store policies and what many perceive to be double standards in the application of those policies.
We ourselves noted earlier today the existence of services like the French cloud gaming platform Shadow, which was briefly removed from the App Store before being allowed back on after the removal of a “Quick Launch” feature that allows users to launch games directly from the app. Shadow, in its current form, is notably different from other cloud gaming services. It allows subscribers to use an entire virtual PC and users can stream not just games, but programs from the virtual Windows machine the service creates.
Project xCloud and other services currently absent from iOS are very different. You never see a virtualization backend, and instead, you launch games directly from the home screen and play them seamlessly.
This is apparently against Apple’s policy, and because of Apple’s policies, iOS users are effectively shut out of cloud gaming. In a statement to Business Insider earlier today, Apple confirmed that Project xCloud and other services appear to violate its policies.
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.
But the problem for Apple is that the company is under intense scrutiny right now for antitrust behavior. CEO Tim Cook was questioned just last week by Congress over this behavior. The company, as we’ve noted many times, has a habit of removing its competitors’ apps from the iOS App Store for various reasons, which is effectively the only method of getting apps to run natively on iOS.
While Apple doesn’t have a cloud gaming service, it does have a game subscription service that would possibly be affected by having rivals like Project xCloud on the same platform. Unfortunately for Apple, keeping those rivals off the platform might not work. Microsoft isn’t a lone developer with a great idea and a successful passion project. It’s an enormous company with its own antitrust history and it’s now, apparently, ready to help take Apple to task.
We reached out to Nvidia, Google, and Apple for comment. Google and Nvidia declined to comment.