Xbox Project xCloud for iOS in deadlock, as testing comes to a halt

Xbox Game Pass at Gamescom 2018
Xbox Game Pass at Gamescom 2018 (Image credit: Matt Brown / Windows Central)

Progress on Project xCloud, Microsoft's upcoming mobile game streaming platform for Xbox games, has seemingly hit a brick wall. Cloud gaming joins its existing Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription on September 15, and while primed for its Android launch, the future on iOS remains much less certain. With its iPhone and iPad trials stagnant for months, and Apple's restrictive policies increasingly scrutinized, Microsoft has struggled to land within the walled garden. And now, it's deadlocked.

Project xCloud on Android has received regular updates over one year of testing, boasting over 100 playable Xbox One games, with Microsoft now confident to charge within its Xbox Game Pass offerings. The iOS counterpart launched barebones, with one playable game, and limited to just 10,000 testing participants. The situation hasn't improved over that six-month timeline, limited to sporadic bug fixes, with no new content.

Related: Microsoft, it's time to speak up about Project xCloud on iOS

Public trials have now come to a halt on iOS, with its latest Project xCloud app build having expired on August 5, 2020. That follows 90 consecutive days without an update to the pre-release app via the TestFlight developer platform, and as per Apple policy, the app has automatically expired for all 10,000 testers. Users attempting to open the Project xCloud iOS app are greeted with an expiration notice, with the app ceasing to function. While the Project xCloud Android preview will shutter ahead of launch, that's not scheduled until September 11.

Project xCloud for iOS

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Microsoft remains quiet on Project xCloud for iOS, yet the spotlight has fallen on what appears to be the result of restrictive App Store policies. Apple, often described as a "gatekeeper" to the iPhone and its broader iOS ecosystem, faces growing pressure from mobile developers. That follows a recent antitrust hearing, with Congress questioning CEOs from Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google over alleged anti-competitive practices.

Xbox Project xCloud TestFlight Expired

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Microsoft isn't the only one impacted by Apple's tight hold on the iPhone, with Google's Stadia and NVIDIA's GeForce Now also subject to the same hurdles. The mandated 30% revenue share (or drop to 15% in year two) introduces barriers for any subscription app, with some seeking creative workarounds on iOS. Apple also bars developers hosting third-party properties and catalogs of multiple games through its storefront, both in conflict with Project xCloud's vision.

While hopes never looked high for Project xCloud on iOS, recent developments show Apple isn't budging anytime soon. Existing policies prevent the next wave of subscription-based game libraries from touching the ecosystem, and whether intentional or not, also holding back competitors to its own Apple Arcade service.

The move leaves Microsoft in a tough spot, currently pursuing Project xCloud through a mobile-first approach. Disruptions to that initial rollout have singled out Android as its exclusive launch platform, partnering with Samsung to accelerate growth. But for Apple, it's the same case but a different name — the question is whether things will change.

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Matt Brown

Matt Brown was formerly a Windows Central's Senior Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.

  • Where is the promised windows app for streaming?
  • It's coming "Soon™"
  • I hope it doesn't come to iOS. Let people on $1000 iPhones watch me play Gears of War on my $175 Android phone. :)
  • Yes. I used to work for Apple and I quit because of all of their nonsense. I used to tolerate owning some of their products. The same day that I quit I sold everything I owned that was Apple. I will never ever own anything Apple ever again and I want nothing to do with that evil corporation.
  • I wonder if the Xcloud app that comes out on September 15th will also work on a Chromebook unlike the preview version. I know my Xbox One controller works on the Chromebook just fine because I tried out Stadia for free and it sucked really bad. It sucked on my 2020 Chromebook and my core i7 PC. Constant stuttering and just completely unplayable. I have a 200 megabit fiber optic internet connection as well. On the other hand the Xcloud app works perfectly on my Samsung Galaxy s8+. So it should do fine on my Chromebook if they allow the app to work.
  • As Apple ramps up its own efforts in the gaming space, policies like this are just going to look more and more like they are anti-competitive moves to shut out the competition. They'll end up shooting themselves in the foot by making their actions attract the attention of the same forces currently going after the likes of Facebook and Google for much the same thing.
  • When Apple said "no" to the back door key to unlock a terrorist phone I decided to stick with Apple. Terrorist are scumbags, however I believe in Apple protecting peoples privacy. Something the industry lacks, as well as censoring people which is not why I served to see rights violated. Apple was more than willing to give the Feds access to the terrorist phone though a warrant with Apple's help, but that wasn't good enough for the Feds. They wanted the keys to the Kingdom whenever they wanted without getting a warrant. xCloud will come to the iOS. Apple is much smarter than Sony who resists cross platform play. Once Apple comes to their senses Sony will be hard press to compete. With the shortcomings of Stadia I can see why Android is onboard with xCloud. I see Stadia parked right next to Atari and Commodore in the next few years.