Microsoft offered to bring top Xbox games like ‘Halo’ to iPhone if Apple would loosen its App Store rules, court docs reveal

Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook.

  • Apple’s App Store doesn’t allow video game streaming services like Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass.
  • Microsoft offered to bring major first-party games, like “Halo,” to the iPhone for access, court documents show.
  • Apple refused the offer, Microsoft said, and Game Pass only works through the iPhone’s web browser.

Last year, as Microsoft was gearing up to turn its wildly popular Xbox Game Pass service into the world’s first “Netflix for gaming” service, it was privately negotiating with Apple to get the service onto iPhones.

That’s according to emails between Microsoft corporate vice president of business development Lori Wright and several Apple staffers unearthed by The Verge from legal documents related to Apple’s lawsuit with “Fortnite” maker Epic Games

Even though Microsoft offered to bring major Xbox games to Apple’s App Store, Apple apparently wouldn’t budge and refused to allow the service onto the App Store in any form.

“Our proposal for bringing games through individual apps was designed to comply with App Store policies,” Xbox cloud gaming head Kareem Choudhry told The Verge. “It was denied by Apple based on our request that there be a single streaming tech app to support the individual game apps.”

On the contrary, Apple said in a statement: “Unfortunately, Microsoft proposed a version of [Game Pass] that was not compliant with our App Store Review Guidelines, specifically the requirement to use in-app purchase to unlock additional features or functionality within an app.” 

In-app purchases, or IAPs, have been a major sticking point for Apple’s App Store rules.

Through the App Store, anything sold must pass through Apple’s payment system where Apple usually takes a 30% cut — and Microsoft’s games have IAPs that circumvent that system, Apple said.

Choudhry rejected that assertion to The Verge, saying, “The reasons for rejection were unrelated to in-app purchase capabilities.” Apple didn’t respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Apple and Microsoft had a public spat over Xbox Game Pass on iPhone last year that resulted in Apple rolling out a new policy for video game streaming services that would require each game on a service to be individually approved before being allowed on the App Store.

“The App Store was created to be a safe and trusted place for customers to discover and download apps, and a great business opportunity for all developers,” an Apple spokesperson told Insider last year. “Before they go on our store, all apps are reviewed against the same set of guidelines that are intended to protect customers and provide a fair and level playing field to developers.”

Though Microsoft publicly pushed back on the policy, and said at the time that “this remains a bad experience for customers,” the newly reported documents suggest it was privately willing to play by Apple’s App Store rules. 

For now, the only way to access Xbox Game Pass cloud streaming on an iPhone or iPad is through the web browser.

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