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Microsoft is already gearing up for a future where Apple will have to allow third-party app stores on the iPhone. In an interview with the Financial Times, Microsoft Gaming head Phil Spencer expressed his desire for Xbox and its third-party partners’ content to be available on any screen where someone wants to play. This includes the iPhone, which could potentially have an Xbox app store in the future.
Spencer specifically referenced the Digital Markets Act, a new piece of legislation that will come into effect in the European Union in 2024. The DMA will require Apple to loosen its grip on the iPhone and allow third-party app store alternatives for the first time. Spencer sees this as a “huge opportunity” for Microsoft to expand its reach and offer its Xbox ecosystem on any platform.
Currently, offering Xbox on mobile devices is not possible, but Microsoft is working towards a future where those devices are opened up. According to Spencer, smartphones are currently the “largest platform people play on,” making it a vital space for Microsoft to expand its presence.
Microsoft’s lack of mobile games is an “obvious hole in our capability”, Spencer admitted. However, Microsoft’s deal to acquire Activision Blizzard could help fill that hole. Through the deal, Microsoft will add popular games such as Call of Duty Mobile, Diablo Immortal, and Candy Crush Saga to its arsenal. These games will be “critically important” in enticing iPhone users to use an Xbox app store.
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Microsoft and Apple have had a longstanding battle over App Store rules that prohibit Microsoft from offering a dedicated cloud gaming app on the iPhone. Apple’s policies require that each game be listed individually on the App Store. Instead, Microsoft offers its Xbox Cloud Gaming service as a web-based app for iPhone and iPad users.
While Microsoft is making plans for a future where Apple will allow third-party app stores, it remains to be seen how soon that future will arrive. Nevertheless, Microsoft is actively working towards expanding its reach and offering its Xbox ecosystem on any platform.