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Microsoft Is Bringing Xbox Game Pass to iOS, but With a Catch

By Danny Vena – Oct 9, 2020 at 2:25PM

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The company is bypassing the App Store, at least for now.

Last month, Microsoft (MSFT -1.94%) announced the debut of its cloud-based Xbox gaming service Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (previously known as xCloud), which allows subscribers to stream games directly to their mobile devices. The service launched in 22 different countries, with more than 150 games. But the titles were available only on Alphabet's (GOOGL -1.82%) (GOOG -1.98%) Android phones and tablets. What was conspicuously missing from the announcement was any mention of availability on Apple's (AAPL -3.00%) iPhones and iPads.

Microsoft is now reportedly working on a "direct browser-based solution" that will bring the service to Apple devices by 2021. The tech giant has been locked in a tug-of-war with Apple, which refuses to allow game-streaming services like Game Pass or Google Stadia among its apps because it wants to review each game individually for inclusion in the App Store. 

Gamer wearing a headset livestreaming on a smartphone.

Image source: Getty Images.

As a result, Apple continues to require that each game be downloaded directly from the App Store, in addition to each game being an individual app, effectively banning game-streaming services from its platform. Apple recently offered an olive branch, asking developers to submit games individually for approval. The companies will then be free to create an app that catalogs and links to each of the pre-approved games. 

Xbox head Phil Spencer reportedly told Microsoft employees at a companywide meeting that the work-around will be designed to bypass the App Store, saying, "We absolutely will end up on iOS." In addition to the web interface, Microsoft continues to work to get approval for a dedicated streaming app. 

"It's in the long list of cool things the xCloud team is working on, just a bit further down the list," Spencer said. "But we want console and PC players to be able to browse as easily as mobile players." 

Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Teresa Kersten, an employee of LinkedIn, a Microsoft subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Danny Vena has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), Apple, and Microsoft and recommends the following options: short January 2021 $115 calls on Microsoft and long January 2021 $85 calls on Microsoft. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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