Microsoft is hoping to launch its own app store on iOS and Android next year in what could be a real game changer for mobile software delivery.
During an interview with the Financial Times, Xbox boss Phil Spencer confirmed the tech giant was prepping its own game store in anticipation of both iOS and Android mobile platforms allowing third-party app stores in early 2024.
“We want to be in a position to offer Xbox and content from both us and our third-party partners across any screen where somebody would want to play,” explained Spencer. “Today, we can’t do that on mobile devices but we want to build towards a world that we think will be coming where those devices are opened up.”
Of course, neither Apple (iOS) nor Google (Android) is likely to warmly welcome a rival app store on their platforms, but they may not have a choice in the matter due to a new EU regulation called the Digital Markets Act (DMA). This ruling is designed to make digital distribution fairer for consumers and allow more competition by preventing platforms from operating as closed shops.
In fact, Spencer mentions the act by name: “The Digital Markets Act that’s coming — those are the kinds of things that we are planning for.” Spencer goes on to label it “a huge opportunity.”
We first got wind that Microsoft was creating its own Xbox-branded mobile games store last year due to documentation submitted to the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). These documents were submitted as part of the regulatory approval process for Microsoft's proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard.
That $68.7 billion purchase is still yet to be rubberstamped and is facing close scrutiny from various regulators including the CMA as well as the Federal Trade Commission. However, many industry insiders expect it to clear these hurdles in the coming months and it would allow Microsoft to offer popular mobile games such as Candy Crush via its own Xbox app store — which would no doubt be highly lucrative.
A big deal for mobile gaming
If the DMA does come into force it would certainly be a big deal for mobile gaming.
For years Apple and Google have forced developers to sell their software and apps via a singular main app store. But the EU's ruling would allow the likes of Microsoft to sell games and apps independently as well as offer greater Xbox Game Pass integration on mobile.
The EU has set a March 2024 deadline for tech companies to become compliant with the DMA, and Bloomberg reports that Apple is taking steps to prepare iOS for that date. However, there is always the possibility that big tech companies will push back to some degree. This could result in a revised deadline or could even see the legislation being tweaked.
It’s also important to note that Apple and Google wouldn’t be under any obligation to allow the likes of Microsoft to launch their own app store on iOS and Android in the U.S. — the DMA only covers EU territories.