Apple’s App Store Rules Are Keeping Xbox Games Away

Microsoft’s refusal to budge enough also played a key role

Key Takeaways

  • New emails have shed more light on the ongoing work to bring Xbox games to Apple’s App Store.
  • Experts say Apple’s guidelines for the App Store are a chief reason Xbox Games aren’t yet available on it.
  • While you can’t get games directly through the App Store, you can still use the Xbox cloud gaming service to play games on your iOS devices.
Xbox games on iPad, MacBook, and iPhone next to a while xbox controller

Microsoft

Experts say Apple's tight grip on the App Store is one of the primary reasons we haven't seen full-fledged releases of Xbox games on Apple devices. But Microsoft isn't exactly innocent, either.

A new series of emails between Microsoft and Apple has shed new light on the ongoing push to bring Xbox cloud gaming to the App Store. The emails, uncovered by The Verge, show Microsoft was willing to play by Apple's rules—for the most part. Instead of following Apple's demand to separate each app and include the streaming package within it, Microsoft wanted a singular app that offered access to all of its games inside. Ultimately, Apple refused the proposal, something experts say could have been fueled by a desire to uphold the App Store guidelines.

"The first and the main difficulty is Apple's App Store rules," Jonathan Tian, co-founder of Mobitrix, a company focused on apps that help transfer data and fix iOS system errors, told Lifewire in an email.

Barriers to Entry

Tian says Apple’s App Store guidelines have long been a point of contention with developers. The tech giant holds onto them tightly, creating an almost iron-like grip on the App Store. This is something we’ve seen brought up several times in recent months, especially during the massive Epic v. Apple lawsuit that happened throughout the past year.

One of the biggest points made during that lawsuit was that Apple’s guidelines, which require developers to follow a multitude of demands, create a monopolistic state for applications on iOS devices. Ultimately, Apple wants to be in charge of its App Store and the applications it offers. Part of this is due to user safety—one of the many reasons Apple gives for the current guidelines. Another reason, some believe, has to do with Apple’s required cut of in-app purchases.

"The first and the main difficulty is Apple's App Store rules."

Because Xbox Game Pass streaming would allow you to download full-fledged Xbox games, you might have in-app purchases available in some of them—like the recently released Halo Infinite. But, per Apple’s guidelines, it requires a 30 percent take of all in-app purchases made through apps on its store. This was the center of the argument that led to Fornite’s removal from the App Store, and some believe it might have been a key part of why Microsoft and Apple couldn’t reach an agreement to bring Xbox games to iOS.

No matter which specific part of the guidelines is at fault, it’s clear Apple made some demands Microsoft was unwilling or unable to commit to. As such, the barriers to entry that Apple has in place have kept Xbox games from making an official debut on the App Store. For now, at least.

Will We Get Xbox Game Apps in the Future?

While Microsoft and Apple have yet to reach an agreement, it’s possible we could see a release of Xbox games on the App Store sometime in the future. The uncovered emails show that Microsoft was willing to meet Apple in the middle. The talks broke down somewhere, though, so Microsoft decided to work around the guidelines.

Halo Infinite running on an iPhone via Xbox cloud streaming

Ryland Dean / Unsplash

That’s where we’re at right now. Xbox games might not be available as iOS App Store downloads, but you can still enjoy them on iOS devices. In fact, you can play Xbox games directly from your browser on your iPhone or iPad. It utilizes the Xbox Game Pass streaming service, which gives you access to hundreds of games for a monthly subscription. 

It’s not a perfect solution by any means. You’ll still need high-speed internet to make the most of the service, and you may need to connect a controller to your phone to make button presses more precise. But, now that Microsoft technically has Xbox games playable on iOS, the company may not feel like it has to meet all of Apple’s demands.

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