While Microsoft has been testing its Project xCloud game streaming service through a closed iOS Testflight beta for several months, the project’s progress seems to have come to a halt.
This week, xCloud for iOS’ public trial ended early and the app is no longer available. Microsoft reportedly pulled the its iOS xCloud app due to Apple’s restrictive App Store policies surrounding third-party streaming apps, according to Windows Central.
“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,” said Microsoft in a recent quote sent to The Verge. “It’s our ambition to scale cloud gaming through Xbox Game Pass available on all devices.”
The iOS xCloud beta seemed to be experiencing issues right from the start, with the test only featuring one game, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, as well as it being limited to only 10,000 users. Further, more games weren’t added to the beta, and there have been no updates to the app since its launch. Apple’s iOS TestFlight deadline rule also requires that apps on TestFlight be disabled after 90 days if they haven’t been updated.
On the Android side of things, the Project xCloud beta now features over 100 games, including titles like Sea of Thieves, Halo 5, Forza Horizon, Crackdown 3 and more. Microsoft also recently announced that xCloud is coming to its $16.99 CAD per month Game Pass Ultimate subscription service on September 15th. During Samsung’s Note 20/Note 20 Ultra launch keynote, the South Korean company highlighted that both upcoming Android smartphones are optimized for Microsoft’s game streaming platform.
It’s worth noting that other streaming services like Google Stadia and Nvidia’s GeForce Now have also run into issues with Apple’s App Store. Though the fact that Apple takes a 30 percent cut of subscription service revenue — that drops to 15 percent the following year — likely played a factor in Microsoft’s decision, the App Store also doesn’t allow any app to stream from the cloud.
“…Any software or services appearing in the client are fully executed on the host device, rendered on the screen of the host device, and may not use APIs or platform features beyond what is required to stream the Remote Desktop,” reads an excerpt from Apple’s App Store rules.
This means that there’s a strong possibility we may never see streaming services like xCloud and Stadia on iPhones and iPads unless Apple changes its App Store policy. Given how popular the iPhone is around the world, particularly in Canada, and that iPad is really the only viable tablet platform, this is pretty disappointing. It would be great to be able to play xCloud titles on the 11-inch iPad Pro (2020)’s stellar-looking display.
Though Microsoft recently complained to the U.S. House anti-trust committee about the way Apple manages its App Store, it’s unclear if the tech giant has any plans to change its stance on streaming video game platforms.
Update 08/07/2020 9:39AM ET: In a statement to The Verge, Microsoft revealed that its testing period for xCloud on iOS has ended and that the company doesn’t feel it has a way to move forward with the platform on Apple devices.
“Our testing period for the Project xCloud preview app for iOS has expired. Unfortunately, we do not have a path to bring our vision of cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to gamers on iOS via the Apple App Store. Apple stands alone as the only general purpose platform to deny consumers from cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass. And it consistently treats gaming apps differently, applying more lenient rules to non-gaming apps even when they include interactive content. All games available in the Xbox Game Pass catalog are rated for content by independent industry ratings bodies such as the ESRB and regional equivalents. We are committed to finding a path to bring cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to the iOS platform. We believe that the customer should be at the heart of the gaming experience and gamers tell us they want to play, connect and share anywhere, no matter where they are. We agree.”
Update 08/06/2020 3:57pm ET: In a statement to Business Insider, Apple explained that game streaming apps aren’t allowed in the App Store because the company can’t review each game that is available through them.
“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. 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.”