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Game Pass dealt a blow as Apple refuses to allow xCloud on App Store

As controversy continues to grow over Apple’s App Store policies, Microsoft, in particular, has been hit hard after Apple confirmed that xCloud violates its guidelines and therefore will not be permitted on the App Store.

In a statement to Business Insider, Apple said that Microsoft would have to submit each game on xCloud individually for approval. Microsoft had already ended testing on iOS early, citing the uncertainty over whether Apple would allow xCloud’s existence on the platform. 

Microsoft responded in a statement to The Verge stating: “Apple stands alone as the only general-purpose platform to deny consumers from cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass. And it consistently treats gaming apps differently, applying more lenient rules to non-gaming apps, even when they include interactive content.” 

A key target market for xCloud and Game Pass is casual gamers, who might not necessarily own a console

Part of cloud gaming’s attractiveness is the ability to play anywhere, on any device over the internet. There are now hundreds of millions of iPhone users/potential xCloud customers unable to use the service on their device. That is a massive loss for Microsoft. A key target market for xCloud and Game Pass is casual gamers, who might not necessarily own a console, but have a fairly modern laptop and a smartphone capable of streaming. Not having access to the iOS platform takes away an enormous chunk of that market, and I have no doubt this will hurt Microsoft’s profits (proceed to weep for a multi-billion-dollar company). But is this the nail in the coffin for xCloud? I have my doubts. 

xCloud is a small part of Xbox’s transition to games-as-a-service, which it is providing in the form of Game Pass, and it has grown incredibly fast. Game Pass’ value-for-money has made it incredibly attractive. Microsoft has proven that a Netflix-style subscription model for games can work. Hardcore gamers on PC and Xbox will likely continue to subscribe to Game Pass, even if they cannot access those games on their iOS devices. 

More interestingly, video games analyst Daniel Ahmad has suggested that Microsoft has bigger plans for xCloud. As the team at Xbox insist on supporting multiple generations of consoles at once, Xbox One consoles will be effectively turned into streaming boxes that will run next-gen games that they could no longer run natively, through xCloud. This is where the real return on investment will come for xCloud. 

Apple’s monopolistic policies on its platform will certainly hurt Game Pass and might be a deal-breaker for many casual gamers. xCloud is still an integral part of Xbox’s long-term strategy for its platform, and I don’t think Game Pass is going anywhere, anytime soon. Besides, with rumblings of lawsuits underway, it may not be long until Apple is forced to welcome xCloud into the App Store. 

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