Microsoft Was Reportedly Willing to Bring AAA Xbox-Exclusive Games to App Store

Emails detail that Microsoft was willing to bring AAA Xbox-exclusive games to the App Store before it launched xCloud in the browser.

Last year, Microsoft made a big deal about how Apple’s insistence that each of its games needed to be an individual app was behind the reason for its streaming service, Xbox Cloud Gaming, from appearing on iOS. That hasn’t changed since, but it seems Microsoft was actually ready to concede behind-the-scenes.

In new emails obtained by The Verge as part of the Epic vs. Apple trial, it’s been revealed that there was a lot of discussion between Microsoft and Apple over bringing Xbox games to the App Store. Microsoft seemingly went as far as offering to make each game available on its own if it could have a central app to host all the cloud gaming technology — a proposal which Apple ultimately denied.

The thread of emails reveals that Lori Wright, the Xbox head of business development, suggested that Apple should allow Microsoft to put individual game apps on the App Store as separate shortcuts.

To persuade Apple to give in to the suggestions, Wright tried to sweeten the deal by reportedly offering Xbox-exclusive games for iPhone and iPad users. She is said to have written in the email: “this would be an incredibly exciting opportunity for iOS users to get access to these exclusive AAA titles in addition to the Game Pass games.”

There were several sticking points along the way. For one, Microsoft wanted a “single streaming tech app” that ran the games, but Apple pushed to include the streaming tech inside each individual game so users wouldn’t have to download a separate app.

Microsoft argued that a core streaming app would “be a better experience for users” due to smaller game downloads and less frequent updates, but Apple was adamant. In-app purchases were also a major sticking point, as Microsoft did not want to use Apple’s in-app purchase system as required by the App Store terms.

“The reasons for rejection were unrelated to in-app purchase capabilities; we currently provide Xbox Cloud Gaming through a singular Xbox Game Pass app in the Google Play Store without IAP enabled, for example, and we would do the same through the App Store if allowed,” states Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud Gaming CVP, Kareem Choudhry.

Ultimately, Apple announced its new App Store guidelines in September 2020, to which Microsoft immediately spoke against as it prevented it from putting any streaming service for games on the App Store at all. Instead, Microsoft released support for Xbox Cloud Gaming via the browser, circumventing the App Store but making the process a little clumsier for users in the process.