Microsoft has announced that its ambitious Project xCloud will debut on September 15. It will reach Android tablets and smartphones, but not Apple’s iPad or iPhone. Those from Cupertino have indicated that this service does not comply with the rules of the App Store, similar to what happened with Steam Link a couple of years ago. Valve had to redesign the service to be compliant with the rules and appear on the App Store.
What is Microsoft’s Project xCloud
Project xCloud was introduced last summer during E3 2019. It is an additional feature that is incorporated into Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, Microsoft’s gaming service for PC and Xbox, and that allows you to access 100 high-quality games for a monthly fee. xCloud allows you to play these games through streaming, eliminating the need to download the games to the device.
On September 15, the beta will open to 22 countries, including Spain. It is unknown when its final release will be. This extends the domain of the service beyond the Xbox and a PC, reaching smartphones and tablets.
Video game streaming is a functionality that expands the gaming possibilities to other platforms
Among other improvements, it allows you to start in one of them, leave the game and continue on any other device later. So progress accumulates regardless of device. In a way this look is similar to Apple Arcade, although the concept is different and the game catalog is of game console quality. In the Microsoft service we will find games like Destiny 2, Gears 5 or Ark: Survival Evolved.
In addition to the subscription of 12.99 euros per month, to take advantage of xCloud it is necessary have an Xbox controller and a Wi-Fi connection of at least 5 Ghz with a download of 10 Mbps.
xCloud does not allow Apple to review each game individually
At the beginning of the year, Microsoft launched a beta program to use xCloud from iOS and iPadOS. However, after the end of the trial period on these devices, he has decided to withdraw it. The company said in a statement to Business Insider on the matter:
It’s our ambition to scale cloud gaming through Xbox Game Pass across all devices, but we have nothing to share about iOS right now.
Microsoft gave no further reasons on the matter. The publication obtained the following statements from Apple about xCloud and its game service:
The App Store has been created to be a safe and trusted place for our customers to discover and download apps, and a great business opportunity for all developers. Before entering our store, all apps are reviewed under the same set of rules intended to protect customers and provide a fair and balanced playing field for developers.
Our customers enjoy great apps and games from millions of developers and gaming services of course can be released on the App Store as long as they follow the same set of rules applicable to all developers, including submitting games individually for review. , the appearance in the rankings and the search. In addition to the App Store, developers can choose to reach all iPhone and iPad users via the web through Safari and other browsers found in the App Store.
So the main downside according to Apple is that xCloud games and other services such as Google’s Stadia (which is not present in the App Store for the same reasons) is that games are not individual entities as the norms mark. And that prevents offering the same type of experience that users have with other games, including those of Apple Arcade, which are individual entities and are found both in the search engine and in the rankings and the Today tab.
What rules of the App Store would xCloud be violating
Apple has not directly disclosed what rules does xCloud violate and other style services. But if we review history and analyze the official regulations, we come across three of them:
3.2.1 (i) Apps that show your own apps for purchase or promotion within your app are considered acceptable, as long as the app is not a mere catalog of your apps.
3.2.2 (i) The creation of an interface to display third-party apps, extensions, plug-ins or the like in the App Store or as a collection of general interest is considered unacceptable.
4.2.7 Remote Desktop Clients, Section (d): The interface that appears in the client must not imitate iOS or the App Store, and will not provide a store-like interface, or will include the ability to browse, select or buy software that has not been previously purchased or licensed by the user. For added clarity, transactions that take place within the relayed software do not need to use the in-app payment system, as long as the transactions are processed on the host device.
The interpretation of these standards is where Apple’s statement to Business Insider comes from. The company wants the App Store experience to always be the same, where users find apps by different means. Among them, we have the editorial content that highlights apps and games in the Today tab. There are also the rankings and of course, the search engine (where developers can also promote themselves via advertising).
The problem with xCloud or Stadia is that they act as a store, giving access to a catalog of games that are not owned by the user. If a user wants to play Gears 5, they cannot find it in the App Store as it is “locked” in the Microsoft service. It won’t even be in the rankings because there is no individual “app” for this game that can be rated or left a comment. That’s just Apple Arcade’s approach, which requires downloading games one at a time, one of the reasons why it’s not really a competitor to these two services.
Valve went through something similar when in 2018 it announced its Steam Link service. Apple rejected its app for these same reasons, which is why the company decided to modify its app for iOS. A year later, he debuted again though giving only access to the catalog of games already purchased by the user previously. This path does not appear to be an option that fits with Microsoft or Google’s plans for cloud gaming.
Leaving this aside, we must point out that the rules of the App Store are not set in stone. The store was launched in 2008 and over the years, they have emerged new ways of doing business and distributing apps in her. It is not entirely out of the question that Apple adapts the regulations to incorporate services such as Stadia or xCloud in the future or, at least, a form of them that does comply with the new conditions.
Some compare the situation with the Netflix catalog and other similar services, but it is a wrong comparison: movies and series are not interactive apps like a game
Apple’s main drawback is that games must be individual apps in order to be visible to the end user. With this, it is possible to give it to meet a wider audience than the one who traditionally enjoys the most hardcore games. This benefits both parties: Apple gains a richer, more complete and attractive catalog; Microsoft gains visibility and promotion.
Without a doubt, a concrete technical development would be necessary by both parties to be able to accommodate the needs of both companies. Apple has not announced any plans in this regard, but it’s a change that we may see in the future given the relevance that these types of services are taking.