Microsoft xCloud game streaming might not launch on iOS after all

Game streaming has become big news, especially in recent months, because of how it enabled gaming on almost any device, including smartphones and tablets. One class of devices that have silently been left out, however, are iPhones, iPads, and even Apple TVs. Game streaming services seem to have some difficulties with Apple's app store policies and Microsoft is no different. When the Project xCloud finally launches next month as part of the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, it might be unavailable for iOS, perhaps indefinitely even.

This would be a sad and strange turn of events given that Project xCloud was actually in beta testing on iOS since February. Neither Google Stadia nor NVIDIA GeForce NOW ever got that point, sparking hope that even the limited TestFlight experience would be indicative of an agreement between Microsoft and Apple. Sadly, that's not the case.

It isn't clear why Microsoft is pulling the plug but it's not hard to guess that Apple's App Store policies are behind it. In a nutshell, it disallows any app or service that would allow users to purchase items, thereby becoming something like a store of its own. It also puts limits on remote desktop apps, requiring that they are connected on the same local network.

These policies have pretty much blocked the likes of Stadia from being available on Apple's platforms. Valve's Steam Link, on the other hand, ran afoul of the remote desktop rule until it made changes that Apple demanded. You can't, for example, buy games from the Steam Link iOS app even if you're connecting to the PC in your house to play.

The loss of game streaming services may not yet matter much to Apple who has its own Apple Arcade platform to cater to its users' gaming needs. Of course, the titles served by Stadia, GeForce NOW, and xCloud are worlds apart from those on Apple Arcade and it remains to be seen how these companies will work out a compromise, hopefully to the benefit of gamers.