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Microsoft cuts xCloud iOS testing early as its future on Apple devices remains unclear

Microsoft cuts xCloud iOS testing early as its future on Apple devices remains unclear


Apple’s App Store policies appear to be holding xCloud back

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Microsoft has ended its xCloud game streaming test for iOS devices today. The software giant had been testing xCloud on iOS in a very limited way over the past few months, but made it clear the service would only be launching on Android earlier this week. Microsoft had informed xCloud testers that the preview would end on September 11th, but only the Android preview will continue until next month.

“Our Project xCloud preview TestFlight period has ended on iOS and we are focused on delivering cloud gaming as part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to Android customers beginning September 15,” says a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement to The Verge. “It’s our ambition to scale cloud gaming through Xbox Game Pass available on all devices.”

Microsoft’s ambitions to launch cloud streaming on iOS have hit some obstacles. The company had to limit its xCloud iOS test app to just Halo: The Master Chief Collection and 10,000 testers due “to comply with App Store policies.”

xCloud on iOS.
xCloud on iOS.

Microsoft hasn’t revealed which Apple policies are preventing xCloud from launching on iOS, but Google’s Stadia game streaming service is also not available on iPhones or iPads. Google merely supplies a Stadia management app, but there’s no game streaming involved. Other game streaming apps have also faced issues on the App Store. Valve’s Steam Link app took nearly a year for Apple to approve even though it primarily streams games from your home PC.

The future of xCloud on iOS remains unclear and potentially out of Microsoft’s hands. The issues appear to be related, in part at least, to Apple’s rules on in-app purchases through its App Store. Apple also has strict limits on “remote desktop clients” that mean apps are only allowed to connect to a user-owned host device or game console owned by the user. Both the host device and client must be connected on a local network, too. While Microsoft could potentially work around the in-app purchase App Store policies, the remote desktop client rules are likely the bigger hurdle.

Microsoft is avoiding in-app purchases with the Google Play Store version of Xbox Game Pass that will include game streaming (xCloud). Instead, Microsoft has partnered with Samsung to offer a special version of the Xbox Game Pass app that will allow Xbox players to redeem tokens and make in-app purchases like buying skins or DLC items in the Xbox Store.

Microsoft is now planning to launch game streaming (xCloud) as part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate on September 15th. The service will be exclusive to Android tablets and phones at launch, but Microsoft is also working on a PC app to stream Xbox games to Windows 10 machines.

Update, August 5th 6:30PM ET: Article updated with additional Apple App Store policies.