At this point, Microsoft’s struggles to get Xbox Game Pass – and, by extension, Project xCloud game streaming – on iOS have been well documented. Throughout Project xCloud’s extensive alpha period and in the beta that rolled out in September, Android has been the only supported platform for game streaming. Given Apple’s rules concerning App Store distribution, there seems to be little hope for an Xbox Game Pass app on iOS anytime soon.
Microsoft, however, is still determined to bring game streaming to iOS, and now it seems like the company will try to sidestep the App Store entirely. According to Business Insider, Xbox chief Phil Spencer told employees in an “all-hands meeting” earlier this week that Microsoft is currently working on a browser-based version of Xbox Game Pass that will bypass the App Store entirely and, therefore, be free from Apple’s rules regarding game streaming apps on the App Store.
Specifically, Apple takes issue with the fact that apps like Xbox Game Pass offer access to a library of games that Apple can’t review individually. In September, Apple rolled out new App Store rules that make it possible for companies like Microsoft and Google to host their game streaming apps on the iOS App Store, but since those rules require that each game on the service be individually submitted to Apple for review, it’s likely far too tedious to be something Microsoft and Google actually pursue.
At this point, a browser-based workaround could be the only thing that gets Xbox Game Pass on iOS devices, and interestingly enough, it’s something that Apple itself has suggested in the past. Amazon is doing something similar for Luna, so indeed, web-based apps seem to be the best way forward for these various game streaming services.
According to Spencer, this browser iteration of Xbox Game Pass for iPhone and iPad should be ready to go sometime next year. According to The Verge, Spencer said during that same meeting that Microsoft targeting a 2021 launch for cloud streaming on Windows 10 PCs as well, so 2021 could wind up being a huge year for Xbox Game Pass.