Microsoft Aims to Challenge Apple and Google with New Mobile Gaming App Store

microsoft game pass

Microsoft is gearing up to introduce a new mobile game store for iPhones and Android smartphones as early as next year, if its $75 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard is approved by regulators.

This news was revealed by Phil Spencer, Chief Executive of Microsoft Gaming, in an interview with the Financial Times ahead of this week’s annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

“We want to be in a position to offer Xbox and content from both us and our third-party partners across any screen where somebody would want to play,” said Spencer.

The EU’s Digital Markets Act, expected to come into effect in March 2024, will require Apple and Google to open up their mobile platforms to third-party app stores.

Spencer stated that Microsoft’s goal is to offer Xbox and content from both Microsoft and third-party partners across any screen where someone wants to play. Although this is currently not possible on mobile devices, the company is working towards a future where these devices are more open.

Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, the developer behind the popular Call of Duty franchise, has faced regulatory challenges in the US, Europe, and the UK due to concerns about potential impacts on competition.

Sony—makers of the PlayStation—has been a vocal opponent of the deal. However, Spencer argues that the acquisition could increase competition in the smartphone gaming market, where Apple and Google currently dominate the distribution of games and other apps.

The upcoming Digital Markets Act presents a significant opportunity for Microsoft, according to Spencer. The Act is expected to designate Apple and Google as “gatekeepers,” requiring them to change the rules governing app distribution on their platforms.

While it’s difficult to predict the exact timeline for Microsoft’s store launch, Spencer said that adapting the company’s Xbox and Game Pass apps to sell games and subscriptions on mobile devices would be “pretty trivial.” Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard is crucial for filling the “obvious hole in our capability” in mobile gaming.

Popular titles such as Call of Duty Mobile, Diablo Immortal, and Candy Crush Saga, along with others in development, are considered “critically important” in attracting players away from Apple and Google’s marketplaces to an Xbox mobile store.

Microsoft has long disputed Apple’s App Store rules, which the company claims restrict its ability to offer cloud gaming through a single, native app on the iPhone.

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is currently investigating Apple’s stance on cloud games following its Mobile Ecosystem Market Study. The CMA has also raised concerns over Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, suggesting that the deal could be resolved only through a spin-off of the Call of Duty franchise.

Are you ready to see a Microsoft mobile gaming app store for iPhone and Android phones?