Xbox lead Phil Spencer talks xCloud in Safari, App Store fees
Phil Spencer is the lead of Xbox at Microsoft, and in a wide-ranging interview, he discusses bringing xCloud to mobile Safari and how Apple's App Store and the Xbox game store differs.
Apple has made things difficult for businesses to bring streaming services to the Xbox with a range of rules preventing the apps from existing on iOS. If a company wants a streaming service to exist, they must submit each game to the App Store as a separate entity rather than having a single app launcher.
Companies like Nvidia with GeForce Now and Google with Stadia have opted to bring their game streaming services to mobile Safari. Doing so lets the companies avoid Apple's rules as well as the App Store fees associated with it. Microsoft will soon follow suite.
Going with browser support rather than specific App Store support will give Microsoft access to more devices. "We have this avenue of a browser that works for us that we will go and build out," Spencer said, "which gives us access, frankly, to a lot of devices."
Spencer says that Apple is open to building out a proper user experience, but the browser is the better bet. "If the device is capable of running a capable web browser," he continues, "we're going to be able to bring games to it, which is pretty cool. You'll be able to bring all of your saved games and your friends and everything comes with you. It's just Xbox on this new screen with the games. Apple does remain open in the conversations that we have on this topic."
Despite not being able to run xCloud directly on iOS, Spencer says he understands Apple's perspective. "I don't say I agree with it, but they have a competitive product in Apple Arcade that is competitive with Xbox Game Pass," Spencer said. "I'm sure they like having Apple Arcade as the only game content subscription on their phone."
The interview was conducted by The Verge and they asked if Apple was limiting Safari's ability to support game streaming to push developers into the App Store.
"We have not seen that to date, just like we haven't on Chrome," said Spencer. "I will say that maybe more Chrome — just because I happen to be an Android user, but Google's good at advertising their first-party services through their platform."
He goes on to say that the competitive nature of the platforms will be something to contend with as well, like will Chrome redirect users to Stadia when looking for Game Pass? "Those are things that aren't happening today," Spencer commented. I"'m not accusing anybody of things. That's just one of the positions we're in, not being a platform holder."
"I think when computing platforms really get to scale, like an Android, or an iOS, or Windows, there's a responsibility for us to keep those open and allow for competition on them." Spencer concluded. "I do fundamentally believe that. "
The wide-ranging interview covered many topics related to launching Xbox Series X and how things seem to have accelerated in the gaming space. Apple and Google often liken their platform business models to that of Xbox and other game consoles, Spencer was asked how he felt about the comparison.
He started by stating that it wasn't a fair comparison.
"If I can put Game Pass on iOS if you just look at the scale, there are a billion mobile phones on the planet," Spencer said. "Those are general compute platforms. A game console does one thing really; it plays video games. It's sold, for us, at a loss. Then you make money back by selling content and services on top. The model is just very, very different from something [on] the scale of Windows, or iOS, or Android."
The entire console market might sell 200 million game consoles in a gaming generation, with doesn't even touch a single year of phone sales. Spencer says scale definitely matters when considering the legal perspective of the business model.
"When you start looking at how we look at open platforms and access, those things do matter," Spencer concludes. "From a legal perspective, they matter. We know that at Microsoft. We had our DOJ time. I think as platforms get to scale, there's a responsibility there, absolutely."
Microsoft will release xCloud to mobile Safari sometime in the near future. Until then Nvidia has already placed it's gaming service GeForce Now on Safari, and Stadia is available via a third-party browser. You'll soon be able to play these games with an Xbox Series X controller as well, as Apple will include compatibility in a future update.