Microsoft tried to launch its xCloud game streaming service on the App Store for iPhone and iPad users, but Apple rejected the app due to its strict guidelines. Now emails revealed in the Epic vs. Apple trial on Wednesday show that Apple even removed a similar app from the App Store after its existence was mentioned by Microsoft.
Microsoft began testing xCloud for iOS in February of last year in a private beta, and things were going well until the company decided to release the app on the App Store. For those unfamiliar, xCloud offers an entire catalog of games that can be played on any device over streaming.
Apple claimed that apps like xCloud cannot offer content that hasn’t been previously approved by the company, so the app was never released to the public. Microsoft, of course, tried to argue with Apple to change the company’s decision — as we can see from the emails revealed during the trial between Epic Games and Apple.
As noted by the Verge, Microsoft pointed out that Netflix is an app that offers access to multiple content that is not individually reviewed by Apple, and yet is available on the App Store. More than that, Microsoft told Apple about an app called Shadow, which lets users access their PC game library remotely from any iOS device.
As a result, rather than negotiating, Apple quickly removed Shadow from the App Store.
Microsoft was trying to figure out how Shadow, Netflix, and other similar “interactive” apps were able to exist in the App Store while Apple was refusing to approve xCloud. Microsoft put forward Shadow as an example of such a service, only to see it suddenly removed from the store.
Apple later allowed Shadow to return to the App Store, but only because the app offers full access to a Windows PC, rather than being something specific to gaming (although the app’s main purpose was to let users play PC games on iOS). xCloud, on the other hand, had to be rebuilt as a web app to work on the iPhone and iPad.
In multiple occasions, Apple has taken a stand against apps that offer similar capabilities to the App Store and its own game service Apple Arcade. Last year, the company said that it allows streaming games on the App Store, but only if they’re submitted as individual apps. Aside from saying that it had no intention of prejudicing the Shadow app, Microsoft mentioned that Apple’s decisions related to game streaming on iOS result in a “bad experience for customers.”
This public spat has now boiled over into the courtroom battle between Epic Games and Apple, with lawyers on Epic’s side questioning Microsoft and Nvidia representatives about their struggles to bring cloud gaming apps to iOS.
It’s hard to imagine that this will change anything in Apple’s decision not to allow xCloud and other similar services on the App Store, but this will possibly have an impact on the court’s decision as the company has been under investigation for monopoly practices.