Report: Xbox game streaming will land on iOS in 2021 using Web workaround

Enlarge / This demonstration of Microsoft’s Project xCloud as played with a Razer Kishi controller, attached to a standard Android smartphone, could be a hint of what’s to come to iOS devices in 2021.


Project xCloud, the Microsoft game-streaming service that comes packed as a bonus in certain Xbox Game Pass subscription plans, may finally have a path to working on Apple’s range of iOS devices—well after a public row between the tech giants that put the possibility into question.

The news comes from a report by Business Insider, which claimed that an internal Microsoft meeting on Wednesday included a vote of confidence from Xbox chief Phil Spencer. “We absolutely will end up on iOS,” Spencer reportedly said about getting its streamed Project xCloud game content onto iOS devices in “2021.”

Progressive policies

Previously, Apple shot down existing versions of both Project xCloud (which has since been rolled into the “Xbox Game Pass” app) and Google Stadia as iOS apps. Their public statements hinged on “reviewing” the games included in the subscription against App Store guidelines, though the issue could also stem from in-app purchases within both Xbox and Stadia’s offerings. Eventually, Apple offered a revised stance on such apps, but this onerous “approval for every separate game” proposal comes with its own headaches, as opposed to a clear path toward a simple subscription service (as you’ll find in popular iOS media apps like Netflix and Amazon Video).

Roughly one month later, Amazon announced its own game-streaming service, Amazon Luna, which the company said would work on iOS devices. How? Amazon’s plan will skip the App Store and operate instead with a “progressive Web application” inside of iOS’ Safari app, which Apple cannot prohibit in the same way.

Unsurprisingly, this week’s Microsoft meeting included a call to build a similar Web-based solution for getting xCloud running on iOS devices. That would likely broaden xCloud’s reach to even more devices, and sure enough, The Verge later confirmed that the same meeting included a call to have xCloud running on Windows 10 devices in 2021.

What these reports don’t clarify, however, is how xCloud’s industry-leading latency measures, which make a serious difference in streaming twitchy video games from a server, will change when moving from a built-in app to one that routes its calls through a standard Web browser. Based on our tests of xCloud on Android, we’re not sure that Microsoft has built a simple wrapper around a Web-based app—and thus the xCloud team probably has some work ahead of them to get up to speed on one of the planet’s biggest operating systems.

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