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Here’s how Microsoft plans to bring xCloud to iPhone in 2021

Published Oct 9th, 2020 7:20PM EDT
xCloud on iPhone and iPad
Image: Xbox

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  • Xbox Game Pass Ultimate includes a cloud gaming platform called xCloud that allows Android users to stream full Xbox games over the cloud.
  • Apple will not allow Microsoft to bring Game Pass to the iPhone and iPad in its current state, so Microsoft is planning to circumvent the App Store and put Game Pass on the web.
  • In 2021, iOS users will be able to access Game Pass through their internet browser.

The Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S are just weeks away from launch, but one of the most exciting prospects of the next generation is being able to play console games on any device you own. After months of testing, Microsoft’s cloud gaming service xCloud finally launched to the public on September 15th. Anyone who subscribes to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate can access the service on their Android phone or tablet and play more than 150 of the biggest games of the decade, including Gears 5, Halo 5, Destiny 2, Mortal Kombat X, Nier: Automata, and more.

The only real downside to xCloud is that it doesn’t work on iOS devices, because Apple is a massive spoilsport. (Ok, it’s slightly more complicated than that, but the point is that Apple says xCloud breaks its App Store rules). Microsoft was adamant that it would find a way to bring the service to iOS, but it was unclear how, at least until this Business Insider report revealed that the company might have a clever workaround for Apple users.

According to Business Insider, Head of Xbox Phil Spencer told employees during an all-hands meeting this week that Game Pass will come to the iPhone and iPad in 2021 with the help of a “direct browser-based solution.” By putting the service on the web, Microsoft would no longer be forced to contend with any of Apple’s confusing policies, and would instead direct iPhone and iPad users to a website where they could play games over the cloud.

Cloud gaming services such as Google’s Stadia and Microsoft’s xCloud have been blocked from the App Store for as long as they have existed, but Apple recently attempted to meet the platforms in the middle by altering its rules ever-so-slightly. Basically, rather than denying the services outright, Apple said that they could come to the App Store as long as they made each individual game its own app that would have to be downloaded separately from the App Store and then link to the main app. Microsoft wasn’t interested, and we didn’t hear anything else.

Apple could simply work with these companies to make the process simple for everyone involved — including iPhone and iPad owners who would love to play Xbox games on the go — but instead, Microsoft is forced to build an entirely new gateway into its cloud gaming solution for iOS users. Apple, why do you have to be this way?

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.