When Microsoft's ambitious 'Netflix of gaming' service launches in September, it won't arrive on Apple devices – here's why

Microsoft
  • This September, Microsoft’s Xbox-based game streaming service is scheduled to launch.
  • The service enables users to play dozens of Xbox games via the cloud, on smartphones and tablets. Any progress made on those games will be reflected on the Xbox when you pick it up there.
  • Better yet: The service is paired with a large library of games that are streamable, similar to how services like Netflix have large libraries of TV shows and movies to watch.
  • But when it launches, the service won’t be available on Apple’s iPhone and iPad – and that’s due to Apple’s App Store policies.
  • “Our customers enjoy great apps and games from millions of developers, and gaming services can absolutely launch on the App Store as long as they follow the same set of guidelines applicable to all developers including submitting games individually for review and appearing in charts and search,” an Apple spokesperson told Business Insider.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

This September, Microsoft plans to launch a major coup in the video game business: The world’s first game streaming service with a built-in library, Netflix-style.

For $US15 a month, you’ll be able to stream over 100 games to smartphones and tablets – but it won’t be available on Apple’s ubiquitous iPhone and iPad.

The reason, an Apple spokesperson said on Thursday, is because Apple isn’t able to review each game that’s available through Game Pass.

“The App Store was created to be a safe and trusted place for customers to discover and download apps, and a great business opportunity for all developers,” an Apple spokesperson told Business Insider. “Before they go on our store, all apps are reviewed against the same set of guidelines that are intended to protect customers and provide a fair and level playing field to developers.”

Because Microsoft isn’t submitting each game on its streaming service to Apple’s review process, the app that enables access to those games is being blocked from publishing.

“Our customers enjoy great apps and games from millions of developers, and gaming services can absolutely launch on the App Store as long as they follow the same set of guidelines applicable to all developers, including submitting games individually for review, and appearing in charts and search,” Apple said in a statement to Business Insider. “In addition to the App Store, developers can choose to reach all iPhone and iPad users over the web through Safari and other browsers on the App Store.”

A similar service offered by Google, named Google Stadia, has also run into roadblocks with Apple’s App Store guidelines. It’s available on Android phones and tablets, but not Apple devices.

Given that Apple allows services like Netflix and Spotify without reviewing every piece of content, why not allow a similar service for gaming? The difference boils down to the medium, according to Apple: Games are interactive, unlike music and film, and there are consumer expectations baked into the App Store related to gaming.

No in-app payment through Apple’s built-in services, for instance, and no App Store rating, among a variety of other things.

Project xCloudMicrosoft

Microsoft’s popular subscription service, Xbox Game Pass, started with the ability to download games from a large library directly to your console and PC.

This September, Microsoft is combining Xbox Game Pass with its “Project xCloud” streaming service – a combination years in the making. Instead of just being able to download games from the Game Pass library to your console and PC, they will also be streamable to smartphones and tablets.

With Xbox Game Pass “Ultimate” this September, Microsoft says over 100 games can be streamed directly to your smartphone or tablet for $US15 per month. You can then resume those games on an Xbox console right where you left off.

Moreover, every major Xbox game published by Microsoft, from “Halo” to “Gears of War” to “Forza Motorsport,” gets published to the service at launch, alongside a smattering of third-party games like “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt” and “Grand Theft Auto 5.” It’s the persistent library, paired with the ability to stream those games to whatever device you’ve got, that makes Game Pass so similar to something like Netflix.

It’s the next evolution of an already successful service:Xbox Game Pass has over 10 million paying subscribers right now. And it’s a critical next step in Microsoft’s plan to end direct competition between Xbox and PlayStation for good.

But without support for Apple phones and tablets, Microsoft’s ambitious plan faces a major roadblock. A statement from the company pledged to continue working toward a solution.

“It’s our ambition to scale cloud gaming through Xbox Game Pass available on all devices,” the statement said, “but we have nothing further to share at this time regarding iOS.”

Got a tip? Contact Business Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email ([email protected]),
or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.

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