Microsoft Almost Brought Xbox-Exclusive Games Like Halo to iPhone

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How cool would it be if you could play Xbox-exclusive games on your iPhone? Instead of struggling to find and buy an Xbox console, you could play popular games like Halo on the go. Just a year ago, that was almost a possibility. Microsoft was in talks with Apple in order to bring Xbox-exclusive, triple-A titles directly to the App Store. Spoiler alert: things didn’t go as planned.

Microsoft Wanted Xbox Games in the App Store

A list of emails retrieved by The Verge reveals that Microsoft was trying to reach an agreement with Apple to have major triple-A titles on the App Store with the help of the cloud. 

Xbox Cloud Gaming, better known as xCloud, is a Microsoft service that lets players from different platforms play major Xbox titles without downloading and installing the game. You, instead, play it in the cloud. This helps you save storage, and, in theory, it would have also helped the iPhone process these games without using its actual processing power.

Instead of subscribing to xCloud directly, you could have just bought Xbox games on the App Store and installed them on your iPhone. When you open the games, you’d be using Microsoft Xbox Cloud Gaming to run these games instead of having them directly installed on your iPhone.

Microsoft’s plan was to use xCloud to avoid issues for both developers and users. In the emails, you could see that Lori Wright, head of business development in Xbox, was worried about many technical problems that having a full game installed on an iPhone would bring. Not only would users have many apps crammed in the iPhones’ Home Screen and App Libraries, but developers would also have problems updating each app individually to fix any major bugs. 

We believe that the issues described here will create frustration and confusion for customers, resulting in a sub-par experience on Apple devices relative to the equivalent experience on all other platforms.

Lori Wright, Microsoft’s Xbox Head of Business Development

This happened around February of 2020, a time when Apple was having issues with the whole cloud-based gaming novelty. 

Despite these issues, Microsoft said that it could actually create every individual app for iPhone, but it would still work as a shortcut for people to access xCloud. This would make the apps lighter and easier to download, and it would still use a single network connection per device instead of a network per app.

What Happened with This Idea?

So, whose fault is it? Microsoft or Apple. Unfortunately, it’s never that simple. Microsoft’s proposals went against Apple’s guidelines for the App Store. The Verge reached out to Microsoft, and the company confirmed that it was Apple who rejected its proposals. 

Kareem Choudhry, Xbox Cloud Gaming CVP, told The Verge that Apple’s request for each game to include Microsoft’s streaming tech stack wasn’t feasible, and it would create a “negative experience for customers.”

Our proposal for bringing games through individual apps was designed to comply with App Store policies. It was denied by Apple based on our request that there be a single streaming tech app to support the individual game apps, as the initial email states. Forcing each game to include our streaming tech stack proved to be unrealistic from a support and engineering perspective and would create an incredibly negative experience for customers.

Kareem Chodhry, CVP of Xbox Cloud Gaming

A spokesperson from Apple said that one of the problems was the requirement to use in-app purchases within an app, which goes against the App Store’s Review Guidelines.

Unfortunately, Microsoft proposed a version of xCloud that was not compliant with our App Store Review Guidelines, specifically the requirement to use in-app purchase to unlock additional features or functionality within an app.

Adam Dema, Apple spokesperson

Is It Still Possible to Use xCloud on iPhone?

Even though it’s unfortunate that Microsoft and Apple couldn’t reach an agreement, Microsoft still managed to find a workaround to bring xCloud to iPhone devices, albeit it’s not what you’d expect.

Currently, you can access cloud-based gaming services like xCloud or Google Stadia on your iPhone via Safari.

  1. Launch Safari and go to
  2. Subscribe to Xbox Game Pass.
  3. Select the Share button then select Add to Home Screen.

Unfortunately, playing from the Safari browser is nowhere near as user-friendly as an app would be, but it’s the only option we have. At least for right now.

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