Update: Microsoft and Apple have confirmed that as of now xCloud will not come to iOS. Apple told Business Insider that the service violates its App Store guidelines, while Microsoft slammed Apple as "the only general purpose platform to deny consumers from cloud gaming and game subscription services."
Microsoft has confirmed that it has stopped testing its Project xCloud game streaming service on iOS, just days after announcing the launch date for the Android version of the service as part of its Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription.
“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,” a Microsoft spokesperson told The Verge. “It’s our ambition to scale cloud gaming through Xbox Game Pass available on all devices.”
Microsoft is still running a test version of xCloud on Android, and has told testers that it will be available until 11 September. The iOS test was always a more limited affair though: it was limited to 10,000 testers, and featured just one game, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, while Android users were able to access over sixty.
The company said that it had to limit the iOS beta “to comply with App Store policies,” and it sounds like those same policies may be behind the decision to shelve testing for now and launch the service as an Android exclusive. Still, the “all devices” mention in the official statement suggests that it hasn’t entirely given up on iOS support just yet.
Neither Microsoft nor Apple has specified which policies are the issue, but it’s most likely down to rules on remote desktop clients and in-app purchases - even the Google Play Store app will ship without in-app purchases. Remember that Google Stadia is also so far unavailable on iOS, potentially for the same reason.
A separate Android version available through the Samsung app store will include purchases for skins and DLC, part of a partnership that also sees three months of Game Pass Ultimate included as a pre-order bonus with Samsung’s Galaxy Note 20 phones, which were announced yesterday.
Samsung was bullish about the Microsoft partnership during its Unpacked event - watched by 56 million fans - devoting an extended section to Game Pass and Samsung’s strengths as a gaming platform. Meanwhile Microsoft insists that cloud gaming is the future of the medium, even above and beyond new hardware like its upcoming Xbox Series X.
Factor in the rise of dedicated gaming phones and it’s clear that this is a growing market that Apple risks missing out on entirely if it doesn’t amend App Store policies to make cloud gaming possible on iPhones and iPads.
Project xCloud launches on Android phones and tablets from 15 September as the cloud gaming portion of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which costs £10.99/$14.99 per month.