If you've ever wished you could turn your iPhone or iPad into an Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S, Microsoft is working on it. In a new interview with the Financial Times, Microsoft's gaming boss Phil Spencer said that Microsoft really wants to launch a gaming App Store for iOS and iPad OS.
The problem? Apple, inevitably. Right now Apple only allows you to have and to buy from its own App Store, with Apple famously taking a very large cut of every sale. Microsoft wants to run its own retail outlet, and it's hopeful that a change in EU legislation means it'll be able to.
Why isn't Microsoft already selling Xbox games on iOS?
It is, kinda, a little bit. Xbox Cloud Gaming works on iOS devices, but it's not a gaming App Store: it's a way for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers to play on other devices. And because it's cloud-based you need to have a pretty good internet connection (10Mbps for phone, 20Mbps for iPad), fast and uncongested Wi-Fi – Microsoft strongly advises against using 2.4GHz Wi-Fi – and an active subscription.
I've played the odd bit of cloud gaming and I'm not a huge fan. Given the choice of a lower-res and often very laggy streaming game and a full-quality native app, I'll pick the native app every time.
So what needs to change? Microsoft is hopeful that 2024's Digital Markets Act, which will compel tech firms such as Apple to allow alternative app stores on their devices, won't just be limited to Europe, which is the only territory the legislation actually covers. Apple is expected to launch a version of iOS 17 next year that'll enable such stores in Europe, but Microsoft hopes the same choice will come to the US too. I suspect it probably will, but that Apple isn't exactly going to rush to implement it.