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Microsoft is working on a gaming app store for iPhone, and I’m ready to never use it

Published Dec 5th, 2023 6:50AM EST
iPhone 14 design.
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

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Third-party app stores are coming to the iPhone and iPad in Europe, as is iPhone sideloading and support for third-party payment systems. Apple might dread it, and it’s not ready to announce it. But the Digital Markets Act (DMA) legislation in the region is pretty clear. iOS and the App Store are gatekeeper services, so Apple has to open them up to competitors.

A new report says that Microsoft wants to sell mobile games on iPhone and iPad via its own App Store alternative. The details are scarce, but considering the massive $69 billion Activision-Blizzard purchase, it seems like Microsoft has no choice but to attempt to sell its mobile games directly to buyers at some point soon.

I, as a longtime iPhone user, I’m ready to never use that Microsoft games app store. I’ll stay away from it even in a case where Microsoft decides to publish its games exclusively through its own app store.

Why I prefer Apple’s way

I explained several times why I prefer Apple’s App Store over alternatives. It’s a safe marketplace with strong security and privacy features. I don’t have to worry about anyone hacking my account. It’s not just about my information being safe, financial transactions included.

Apple’s various app stores allow me to have all my content in one place. When I switch devices, I’ll always find my apps in the App Store, and my purchases will be intact. Updates also happen through Apple, which vets apps and other content before releasing it.

iPhone 15 Screen
iPhone 15 Screen. Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

All of that, the security, privacy, convenience, and comfort, is so precious to me that I’m ready to pay the Apple tax. Should it be 30% in all cases? I’d certainly love it if Apple would lower the commission. And I’ve argued before that one way to get game publishers hooked on iPhone and Mac is to offer them better deals than what’s available from Microsoft and Sony.

But I’ll gladly take the 30% if that’s what it costs to have apps on iPhone.

On that note, don’t think that Microsoft running a third-party app store will be possible without payments to Apple. And those costs will be passed down to the user.

That said, it’s still unclear when Microsoft will bring its mobile app store to the iPhone. Per Bloomberg, Microsoft is talking to partners about such a marketplace. The Microsoft store would also take on Google’s Play store. The same DMA law would also force Google to open Android to rivals.

Microsoft’s iPhone app store plans

“It’s an important part of our strategy and something we are actively working on today not only alone, but talking to other partners who’d also like to see more choice for how they can monetize on the phone,” Phil Spencer told Bloomberg.

Pressed on a timeline for a Microsoft store, the head of Microsoft’s Xbox game division said, “I don’t think this is multiple years away, I think this is sooner than that.”

Again, Apple will have to comply with the DMA rules next year, at which point third-party app stores like Microsoft’s gaming marketplace would be possible.

What’s interesting in all of this is that Microsoft will certainly want to take advantage of the resentment towards Apple and Google from some developers and end-users.

Xbox acquires Activision Blizzard
Microsoft acquires Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion. Image source: Microsoft

“We’ve talked about choice, and today on your mobile phones, you don’t have choice,” Spencer told Bloomberg. “To make sure that Xbox is not only relevant today but for the next 10, 20 years, we’re going to have to be strong across many screens.”

I will point out the irony here. Microsoft is a company that had to defend its Activision-Blizzard purchase against antitrust accusations. Speaking of choice, this is the company that would force Internet Explorer on Windows users, removing choice from the conversation.

Years later, Microsoft took a similar approach with Edge, although you certainly have more choices now. So, I’d say there’s plenty of resentment toward Microsoft too.

Still, my disinterest in Microsoft’s third-party app store has nothing to do with that. It’s all about the features I value from the App Store. And if that means I’d have to give up the various Activision-Blizzard games I might play on iPhone, I’m ready for that.

However, we’ll never come to such an extreme scenario. Microsoft will want iPhone and iPad users to buy games directly from its European store. But that’s the only region where such a store will be available in, at least initially.

Everywhere else, Microsoft must make its games available through the App Store. And I’d speculate that Microsoft will not want to withdraw any titles from the European App Stores once its store launches.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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