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Microsoft negotiated to bring Xbox triple-A games to Apple App Store

2020 emails reveal streaming tech and IAP discussions
Microsoft negotiated to bring Xbox triple-A games to Apple App Store
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The Verge has reported on 2020 negotiations to bring Xbox exclusive triple-A games to the App Store.

This has been disclosed through private emails between Microsoft head of business development Lori Wright and key members of the Apple App Store teams during this period.

However, unresolved disagreements regarding the volume of games and complexity of managing each as separate apps, cloud streaming stacks, and implementation of IAPs prevented an agreement between Microsoft and Apple.

Accommodating hundreds of apps

The emails, which became available following the Epic vs. Apple trial, began in February 2020, discuss bringing the Xbox Cloud Gaming platform streaming on Apple devices, albeit through individual apps.

Although the emails reveal initial concerns from Wright including the management and updating of as many as hundreds of thousands of apps, “resulting in a sub-par experience on Apple devices”, by March Microsoft were prepared to create the quantity of apps if they operated as if shortcuts to a single streaming tech app.

It was also at this point when Wright proposed bringing exclusive triple-A Xbox games, writing: “This would be an incredibly exciting opportunity for iOS users to get access to these exclusive AAA titles in addition to the Game Pass games.”

No agreement reached

Ultimately, no agreement was reached, and Microsoft has progressed with offering its Game Pass streaming service on iOS through the Safari browser.

Microsoft has since stated that Apple rejected the proposals, insisting that each game included the full streaming stack.

Kareem Choudhry, Xbox Cloud Gaming CVP, wrote: “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.”

However, comments from Mark Grimm, Apple App Store games manager, indicate that “[Wright] was far more positive and was trying to pressure her engineering team into finding a way to put the entire streaming stack into each binary”.

Processing IAPs

Instead, Grimm commented that Microsoft were hesitant to put IAPs into each game. Grimm stated to The Verge: “Their proposal for IAPs is still that they process all IAPs on their existing system and settle up with us (either in real-time or monthly) […] They’re not trying to circumvent paying us, they’re trying to circumvent a large amount of redundant API work.”

This aligns with a comment from Apple spokesperson Adam Dema: “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.”

However, Choudhry denied that IAPs entered into the final decision, and stated: “The reasons for rejection were unrelated to in-app purchase capabilities; we currently provide Xbox Cloud Gaming through a singular Xbox Game Pass app in the Google Play Store without IAP enabled, for example, and we would do the same through the App Store if allowed.”

Apple recently won a significant appeal in the Epic vs. Apple antitrust legal battle, and is no longer required to change anti-steering measures.