Xbox Cloud Gaming isn’t getting an official iPhone app, despite Apple’s rule change

Xbox logo on iPhone
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Last month Apple announced a bunch of new changes to the App Store — in part due to legislation in the EU that forces the company to open up its platform to third-party app stores. Part of this involved Apple changing its stance on cloud gaming, now allowing for a single app to offer access to multiple games.

This rule change has been implemented globally, rather than just in the EU. Most of us assumed this would be good news for the likes of Xbox, who have always criticized Apple’s restriction on cloud gaming. But it turns out Microsoft isn’t going to be taking advantage of this rule change just yet.

Speaking with The Verge, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer seemed to confirm that its strategy towards iOS would not be changing. Simply because there isn’t room to monetize Cloud Gaming on iOS. However, Spencer didn’t clarify on this point, instead choosing to criticize Apple’s response to the Digital Markets App in the EU

Going about it the wrong way

Spencer feels that Apple hasn’t done enough to open up iOS, and even posited that they have gone in “the opposite direction in some way.” Spencer said that he wants to see mobile gaming work much the same way as it does on Windows, since PC gamers can buy games from multiple storefronts — like Steam, Epic, Microsoft and GOG.

It’s not surprising that Spencer isn’t happy with the way Apple has “opened up” iOS, and he’s not the only one. Apple’s idea of making iOS accessible to third parties includes retaining control over which apps are allowed, and taking royalties from developers distributing outside the Apple App Store. 

Third-party marketplaces also won’t be allowed unless the developer can provide a letter of credit totaling at least €1 million. That is one of the most Apple things I've seen.

If the way Game Pass works on Android is anything to go by, there isn’t really any monetization involved. You either have a subscription or you don’t, and without a Game Pass Ultimate subscription, nothing is actually available. You can’t actually purchase anything, or subscribe to Game Pass Ultimate, in either the Game Pass or standalone Xbox apps.

Before 2020 cloud gaming was banned on iOS, meaning the likes of Game Pass, Nvidia GeForce Now and the late Google Stadia couldn’t be accessed through iPhones or iPads. In 2020 Apple changed the rules, allowing cloud gaming to exist on iOS — but not the App Store. Instead, developers had to offer web apps, and while effective it wasn’t a very smooth or streamlined experience.

And considering Apple has confirmed it's disabled web apps in the EU, in response to the Digital Market Act legislation, you’d think Microsoft would be more eager to offer an official Game Pass app on iOS. At the very least to offer a more streamlined experience for Game Pass subscribers. But apparently Apple’s restrictions on third-party app stores have tarnished those plans somehow — for reasons Spencer didn’t elaborate on.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.