Bottom line: In an internal all-hands meeting, Xbox boss Phil Spencer revealed that Game Pass would arrive on iPhones and iPads early next year with a browser-based version of xCloud. While work on a standalone iOS app will continue as Apple's current App Store situation evolves, a web-based xCloud will allow Microsoft to bypass the rules... for now. The company also plans to bring the game streaming service to Xbox and PC players, which could potentially let them experience a demo or a quick hands-on with a title to see if it's worth downloading and playing locally on their machine.
Calling it "a bad experience for customers," Microsoft wasn't happy with how Apple had tweaked the App Store rules to allow for third-party cloud gaming services on its platform. Redmond argued that downloading a separate app for each game, which apparently allows Apple to review them properly, would negatively affect user experience for xCloud, and that a simple Netflix-style catalog of games is what the company was looking to offer.
Nonetheless, the sea of iPhones and iPads out there is too big of an opportunity to pass on, even with Apple's restrictions in place. It's why Microsoft is now developing a "direct browser-based solution" for xCloud that it plans to bring to iOS early next year.
"We absolutely will end up on iOS," said Xbox boss Phil Spencer in an internal meeting, reports The Verge. Microsoft will also continue working on its existing iOS app that's been under development for quite some time, in the hope that Apple will eventually allow (or be forced to allow) it on the App Store.
The App Store rules have increasingly become controversial for Apple after a former company exec termed them "a weapon against competitors" that it uses to harass developers Mafia-style. Microsoft also hit a nerve recently when it came out with a new set of rules for its Windows Store.
Yes, we want to do this. It's in the long list of cool things the xCloud team is working on, just a bit further down the list. But we want console and PC players to be able to browse as easily as mobile players, it's a good gamepass feature.— Phil Spencer (@XboxP3) October 7, 2020
Additionally, the company also plans to expand xCloud beyond Android. Responding to a tweet, Phil Spencer said that an Xbox and PC (Windows) version for xCloud was on the cards, which could serve as "a good Game Pass feature" on both platforms.
Microsoft has been internally testing a preview version for xCloud on Windows 10, and we could see it launch next year alongside its Xbox counterpart. Backward compatibility has always been Xbox's strong suit and xCloud could certainly do well for forward compatibility by allowing current-gen Xboxes to stream/play next-gen titles.