Microsoft was open to bringing Xbox exclusives to iPhone

Microsoft was open to bringing Xbox exclusives to iPhone, Apple wouldn’t play ball

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Microsoft wanted to bring Xbox exclusive to the App Store
Halo Infinite could have hit the App Store.
Photo: Microsoft

Microsoft told Apple that it was willing to turn big Xbox exclusives into iPhone and iPad games before negotiations over bringing its Xbox Cloud Gaming service to the App Store broke down earlier this year, internal emails show.

Microsoft was also open to releasing individual apps for each of the titles available in its streaming catalog to comply with App Store rules. It changed course when it became apparent that appeasing Apple was just too difficult.

Microsoft tried to meet Apple’s demands over game streaming

In an ideal world, Xbox gamers with an iPhone or iPad would be able to download a native app that provides access to the entire Xbox Cloud Gaming catalog — just like they can on Android. That was Microsoft’s original plan.

The company was willing to jump through a number of hoops to make them happen, according to emails from the Epic Games vs. Apple trial that were unearthed by The Verge. But it seems Apple wouldn’t play ball.

Not only was Microsoft open to releasing individual apps for the hundreds of titles available through Xbox Cloud Gaming, but it also proposed bringing big Xbox exclusives — like Halo — to the App Store as standalone titles.

In return, all Microsoft asked for was that it released a single app that contained all the streaming technology necessary to support each title, and the ability to handle its own in-app purchases. It still planned to pay Apple its cut.

Apple blocked Microsoft’s proposal

Microsoft told Apple that building its streaming tech into one app, which its individual games would feed off of, would make things simpler not only for Microsoft, but also iPhone and iPad users. It would also cut download sizes.

Rather than weighing in at around 150MB each, and requiring updates every time Microsoft made improvements to its streaming infrastructure, each game would have been just 30MB each, and would never need updating at all.

“Forcing each game to include our streaming tech stack proved to be unrealistic from a support and engineering perspective and would create an incredibly negative experience for customers,” Microsoft explained to The Verge.

What about in-app purchases?

Microsoft also hoped that Apple would allow it to handle its own in-app purchases (IAPs), since it wouldn’t have been feasible to build App Store purchases into games that are streaming from real Xbox hardware.

But even though Microsoft agreed to pay Apple its cut on those purchases, Apple still wouldn’t allow it. Microsoft denies that IAPs played a part in the final decisions, but in the end, complying with Apple was just too difficult.

Instead, Microsoft built Xbox Cloud Gaming into a web app that iPhone and iPad users can enjoy through Safari. It’s not exactly the most seamless experience, but it works — and it’s better than nothing.