App Store approvals mean major headaches for cloud gaming services

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Microsoft Project xCloud on iPhone
Despite a beta test, the Xbox Game Pass cloud gaming service isn’t headed for iPhone.
Photo: Microsoft

Google Stadia and Microsoft Xbox Game Pass cloud gaming services aren’t debuting on iPhone or iPad anytime soon. And the holdup isn’t for technical reasons. It’s about Apple’s App Store policy.

These services could bring desktop-level games to Apple mobile devices. But Microsoft’s offering definitely won’t debut in the App Store this autumn, and Google’s isn’t available, either.

The cloud-gaming revolution is skipping iPhone

The issue is, Apple won’t give Microsoft and Google carte blanche to put any game they want on their services. “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,” Apple told Business Insider.

The difficulty is that Google and Microsoft didn’t create services that will integrate easily into the App Store. They’re more like rivals. They give users indirect access to software running on their own servers.

However, Microsoft still wants to bring its Xbox Game Pass service to iPhone and iPad. It’s not happening soon, though.

Xbox Game Pass and Stadia are very different from Apple Arcade

Many PC and console games have hefty hardware requirements, putting them out of the reach of most computers. But Google and Microsoft each built cloud gaming services to let beefy servers handle the heavy lifting and just stream the action to players with phones or tablets.

Microsoft released a limited beta of Xbox Game Pass (called Project xCloud at the time) for iPhone earlier in 2020. But the service will debut in September on Android and not iOS. It’ll offer access to more than 100 high-quality games for $15 a month.

And while there’s a Google Stadia application in the App Store, it’s not what you think. “You can’t use the Stadia app to play games directly on an iOS device, but you can use the app to manage Stadia on other devices,“ according to Google. However, there is a version of this service that runs on Android handsets and tablets.

These cloud gaming services are distinctly different from Apple Arcade. Apple’s subscription service also allow users access to a range of games for a monthly fee, but the games are downloaded and run on users’ own iPhones and iPads.