Are you an iPhone user? Upset you still can’t play Halo on your phone via cloud streaming like all those folks with Android devices? Well, Microsoft is making a bold promise today: a few months from now it plans to launch browser-based streaming with Xbox Game Pass, which would allow users to access the xCloud-powered service with iOS devices.
Announced as part of yet another celebratory dispatch concerning the recent Xbox Series S/X launch, Microsoft says that Spring 2021 will see Game Pass streaming arrive on iOS via web browser. In the same window, cloud streaming will also be made available on PCs via either the browser or the official Xbox app.
This lines up with what we’ve previously heard about Microsoft’s plans to get Game Pass on Apple’s phones and tablets, though it may be coming sooner than some folks expected. In October, Business Insider reported that Head of Xbox Phil Spencer told others at Microsoft that a “direct browser-based solution” would be ready for iOS devices some time next year. Launching in the next few months would help expand the Game Pass subscriber base ahead of Xbox’s major first-party launches for 2021 like Halo Infinite and Psychonauts 2.
The need to go browser-based on iOS is a result of Apple’s restrictive rules for the App Store. Ahead of the public Game Pass streaming launch for Android earlier this year, Apple said that Microsoft would need to submit each game in the service’s catalog for individual review and let those games appear separately in search results and charts (as though they were entirely separate apps). Microsoft responded by accusing Apple of running “the only general purpose platform to deny consumers from cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass.” Microsoft later filed a statement in support of Epic Games in its legal battle with Apple over the 30% App Store developer fee and associated payment processing rules.
Already, Spencer has gestured at other new devices that Game Pass streaming could expand to in 2021. Plug-and-play streaming sticks are one option he’s recently floated, and as for the possibility of including the Xbox app natively on TVs, Spencer’s said he doesn’t “think anything is going to stop [Microsoft] from doing that” within the next 12 months.