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Microsoft pushed Apple for compromise to get Game Pass on the App Store

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

Last year, Apple rolled out a set of onerous guidelines that required streaming game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass to package each available title as a separate app in the iOS App Store. At the time, Microsoft said this solution “remains a bad experience for customers. Gamers want to jump directly into a game from their curated catalog within one app, just like they do with movies or songs, and not be forced to download over 100 apps to play individual games from the cloud.”

However, new emails revealed as part of the Epic v. Apple trial (and unearthed by The Verge) show how seriously Microsoft was considering working within these guidelines. The emails show that Microsoft engaged Apple in detailed negotiations about how individual xCloud streaming apps could work as a technical matter and even dangled the possibility of streaming “exclusive AAA titles” from outside of Game Pass to help broker a compromise position.

Splitting the baby

In the emails, sent between February and April of 2020, Microsoft Xbox head of business development Lori Wright laid out some concerns about the idea of packaging each Xbox streaming game as an individual iOS app. For users, such a system would lead to cluttered home screens and the potential for “orphaned” app icons when games were removed from Game Pass, Wright wrote. For Microsoft and Apple, the system would also lead to lots of extra overhead in terms of app store metadata management and app review time, she wrote.

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