Microsoft Explains Why xCloud Won't Be On iOS After Prematurely Ending Testing

Focused on next month's launch across Android, Microsoft is halting testing for its game streaming service on Apple devices.


Update: Microsoft has provided a response to CNET outlining their position, and explaining that there's currently no solution for bringing Project xCloud to iOS.

"Our testing period for the Project xCloud preview app for iOS has expired," the statement reads. "Unfortunately, we do not have a path to bring our vision of cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to gamers on iOS via the Apple App Store. Apple stands alone as the only general purpose platform to deny consumers from cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass."

The statement points out that non-gaming apps operate under different rules on Apple's store. "We are committed to finding a path to bring cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to the iOS platform," it continues. "We believe that the customer should be at the heart of the gaming experience and gamers tell us they want to play, connect and share anywhere, no matter where they are. We agree."

For now, at least, it seems that xCloud will be much easier to access for Android users.

The original story follows.

Earlier this week Microsoft confirmed that xCloud, its games streaming service that will be bundled with Xbox Games Pass Ultimate, will be launching in September on Android. Apple devices were completely omitted from the announcement, with their testing apps pulled from devices shortly afterwards.

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Microsoft has chosen to prematurely end its iOS testing for xCloud ahead of the previously communicated September 11 date, when Android test users will migrate over to the officially launched product. In a statement to The Verge, Microsoft say its attention now is focused on a smooth launch across Android.

"Our Project xCloud preview TestFlight period has ended on iOS and we are focused on delivering cloud gaming as part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to Android customers beginning September 15," said a Microsoft spokesperson. "It's our ambition to scale cloud gaming through Xbox Game Pass available on all devices."

The xCloud test on iOS was already much more limited than the one on Android. It was limited to 10 000 users and only featured Halo: The Master Chief Collection to play. TestFlight builds need to be periodically renewed and updated to stay live, which Microsoft seem to have put on pause for the meantime.

The issue isn't necessarily with Microsoft, but may be with Apple instead. Apple has strict policies around remote network connections, with its rules stipulating that apps can only make such a connection to another local device on the same network. Therefore, Google Stadia still hasn't launched a client on any Apple devices and could be the main hurdle Microsoft faces too.

Apple additionally restricts apps that connect to external storefronts, since it cannot control content and royalties on these transactions. This was the main issue Valve had when attempting to launch their Steam Link app on iOS, which eventually took a year to resolve. Considering Steam Link only connects to a computer you own, it circumvents the previous rules holding back Google and Microsoft.

Microsoft hasn't directly stated which rules are preventing it to push forward with xCloud plans on Apple devices, but if Stadia is any indication it might not be an easy problem to resolve. Games Pass Ultimate subscribers will get xCloud support for free starting next month, with Microsoft announcing a portion of the 100 games you can expect on launch day. A variety of accessories from Razer, PowerA, and more have also been revealed.

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