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Epic vs Apple judge dumbfounded over Apple's xCloud policy

Project xCloud
Project xCloud (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • Apple's cloud gaming policy for iOS has come under fire during the Epic Games vs Apple trial.
  • The judge said she was "confused" as to why Apple would require games to be submitted individually.
  • She cited being able to use Netflix with a native app that has many different movies and TV shows.

Apple's policy over cloud gaming and its decision not to permit services like xCloud on the App Store has come under close scrutiny during day 3 of the Epic Games trial.

Epic Games called Microsoft's Lori Wright, VP of business development for gaming media, to talk about Microsoft, Xbox, marketplace commissions, and importantly, cloud gaming.

Wright spoke about how Microsoft does not view the iPhone or iPad as a competing device to Xbox, as well as explaining to the court concepts such as AAA titles. She also confirmed that Microsoft relies on third-party developers heavily for games and that Microsoft makes around $600-$700 million a year in commission from Epic Games, most likely thanks to Fortnite.

xCloud

Wright also testified at length about Microsoft's xCloud gaming service, which lets users stream Xbox games over the internet to mobile devices. "We tried very hard to get it onto iOS but were not able", said Wright, speaking to the court. Wright was referring to Microsoft's plight in trying to make an iOS xCloud app which made headlines last year. Wright said Microsoft representatives spoke with Apple for three to four months, even traveling to Cupertino for meetings on the issue.

Wright says Apple was at first amenable to letting them use the Netflix model of creating a native app that lets users access a wide variety of content, but that it then changed its mind. A huge sticking point that led to the app's demise, Apple told Microsoft it would instead have to submit each xCloud game available on the platform as an individual app.

Wright told the court that these App Store restrictions were "untenable" and would "fundamentally break down the type of service we're trying to deliver", stating that the solution offered by Apple was "really inelegant" and would leave users with lots of dead apps on their iPhone. Wright further stated that people don't play games on the browser of their iPhone, but for Microsoft, it was the only way to reach mobile users on iOS.

"We were seeking to understand why that was the case, why there was a special carve-out for all other types of media and entertainment other than gaming", said Wright,

Confused

Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers stepped into proceedings, perplexed by this policy. "I can use Netflix with a native app and I can see lots of different movies or TV shows or whatever", said Judge Rogers, before asking Wright if Microsoft didn't want to use a subscription model.

Wright stated that Microsoft did want to use the Netflix model before stating "[Apple] allows Netflix to do what Netflix does, but it does not allow us to do what Netflix does." Judge Rogers asked if Microsoft wanted to charge a subscription fee like Netflix, and Wright confirmed this.

Wright also highlighted how Microsoft had tried to negotiate with Apple in good faith, stating it had no objection to Apple's 30% commission and that it was not seeking to negotiate revenue share percent, but that it simply wanted a way "to not have to rewrite all of these links and seek an aggregate way to pay the store commission." Despite this counsel for Apple noted Microsoft was not subject to commission by going through Safari. Apple's lawyers also asked Wright about its relationship with Epic Games, how much commission it generates from Epic, and whether Apple had tried to meet Microsoft in the middle. When asked if Apple's team had accepted a wishlist of issues with xCloud on Safari, Wright agreed but stated "we would have needed none of that if we'd just built a native app for the App Store."

Microsoft started testing xCloud on Safari for iOS last month.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple.

5 Comments
  • There is some difference between viewing content on Netflix and interactive gaming. In Netflix, the app has the controls for start/stop, etc. In interactive gaming each game would likely send user actions back to a server to be processed. Netflix is just streaming content to your device to be presented. Not sure, but there may be more processing done for games on device. It does seem like there may be more potential for security issues with games than purely consumptive streaming. Not that I am for Apple's position, but they may have some legitimate arguments, in their quest to protect users. I do get you can do bad things on the web with browsers as well, but you can only control so much. I imagine it would be to Apple's benefit to allow it, as the purchase of a feature pack or DLC (so to speak) from the game would just make them money.
  • I was thinking the same. I believe Apple already explained this … about media exception a while back.
  • Apple and some zealots would want you to believe in security issues or risks, but that would be completely false, especially when all cloud games run on remote servers, and all of the games graphics are rendered on those cloud servers, then the video stream is sent to the client. Its all about control and money from Apples part. If companies and developers make native iOS apps instead, then Apple gets to control those apps on their app store. Plus Apple is guaranteed to get their cut for any app monetization. Where as web apps, Apple gets no say on any web apps, because web apps come from the web site that you are visting. Plus if there is any app monetization, them Apple does not get any fees from any web apps. Ask yourself this, why did it take Apples iOS version 14.3 to be able to run web apps that could support cloud game streaming? Think about it iOS 14.3 is only a few months old now. Yet the HTML5 and web app standards were finalized back in 2014. Apple has gone out of their way to hinder web apps on iOS, because Apple sees web apps as a threat to their app store.
  • You do realize your whole argument falls apart because Apple allows web apps. That's how xcloud got around the app store rules. Apple even helped them develop the web app.
  • Their argument does not fall apart. The technology that allows web apps to run on safari in iOS has been available for almost a decade, but apple pretty much waited until the very end of 2020 to implement it. They were very obviously hindering web apps on iOS.