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Xbox Game Pass cloud gaming coming to iOS and PC in 2021 — but there's a catch

game pass project xcloud
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Cloud gaming is the next big thing in gaming, or so we’re told. Earlier this year, Microsoft launched its own game streaming service as part of the Game Pass subscription service — no console required.

The catch was that game-streaming functionality is currently available only on Android, but that’s about to change. Microsoft has just announced that Game Pass streaming is coming to iOS and PC in Spring of 2021.

There’s a catch, however. While Android users can download the Game Pass app and stream games there, iOS users will have to go through their web browsers. PC gamers won’t have that issue, though, and Microsoft has confirmed they can play through both their web browsers and the Xbox app.

While Microsoft didn’t outline the reason why in its announcement, it’s been clear that Game Pass on iOS would be heading in this direction for a while. Apple infamously refuses all cloud gaming services, declaring them in breach of its terms of service. 

The logic is that Apple can’t review each individual title in a cloud gaming service. While cloud streaming itself is not disallowed, each game would need its own separate app Each game would also need an in-app purchase to "unlock features or functionality," which would defeat the purpose of having a subscription service.

But the browser workaround is allowed, and Google Stadia has already had some success with it. As long as Microsoft lets you stream games on your iPhone or iPad, then we can’t really complain.

Unfortunately, Xbox console owners will still have a bit longer before they can stream games from the cloud on their consoles. Xbox Series S owners are likely to be especially disappointed at the extra wait, since the built-in 512GB SSD doesn’t have room to store large numbers of games ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Then again, with Android, iOS and Windows PCs thrown into the mix, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t have a machine capable of accessing Game Pass’s cloud library. Microsoft doesn't need to rush through console support before it's absolutely necessary.

We don’t have an exact date for the iOS and PC launch, but at least “Spring” is a little bit more comforting than “coming soon”.