Xbox chief Phil Spencer discusses App Store fees, Apple Arcade, and more

Xbox chief Phil Spencer sat down with The Verge to talk about several different topics, including fees associated with digital storefronts like Apple’s App Store, and much more.

Xbox is one of the leaders when it comes to video game consoles, but it runs a neck-and-neck race with Sony’s PlayStation and Nintendo’s Switch. Things recently heated up when Microsoft and Sony launched their newest generation of consoles, the Xbox Series S|X and PlayStation 5, respectively. In a new interview talking about the latest Xbox console launch, Spencer talked about how well things are going, but also spoke about quite a few other topics.

The interview transitioned to Apple and the App Store, and, beyond that, streaming games from the xCloud service via Safari. These are all points worth touching on, of course, because it’s been a major point of contention for Apple leading into late 2020 and the start of 2021.

Interestingly, while Spencer says he doesn’t necessarily agree with Apple’s decisions, he does understand their perspective when it comes to restrictions within the App Store. Especially as it relates to game streaming services like Microsoft’s xCloud, and that Apple Arcade is a competing product:

I can understand their perspective from their position. I don’t say I agree with it, but they have a competitive product in ‌Apple Arcade‌ that is competitive with Xbox Game Pass. I’m sure they like having ‌Apple Arcade‌ as the only game content subscription on their phone. We want access to at-scale compute devices that we think should have open access to services customers want.

Apple’s stance on blocking things like game streaming services is safety and security, but Spencer says Microsoft understands where Apple is coming from because it focuses on security in its own products as well. As a result, Spencer says Microsoft is “willing to work” with Apple to get any potential issues sorted out so something like xCloud can exist in the App Store at some point in the future.

We’re willing to work with them on safety and other things that people have come up with. We run a platform that takes safety and security very carefully. It is very important to us on Xbox, so that topic is not something that’s foreign to us.

However, until that day arrives (without Apple’s stringent guidelines limiting its scope), using Safari to stream games from the cloud is the most viable option right now.

But we have this avenue of a browser that works for us that we will go and build out, which gives us access, frankly, to a lot of devices. If the device is capable of running a capable web browser, 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.

What’s more, Spencer says Apple remains open to discussions on the topic:

No, they actually remain open to the user experience we would like people to see. But we have this avenue of a browser that works for us that we will go and build out, which gives us access, frankly, to a lot of devices.

As far as App Store fees are concerned, Spencer doesn’t agree that Microsoft’s position is the same as Apple’s. And that comes down to scale. Basically, iPhones are far more prominent out there in the wild, and therefore the argument that Microsoft’s and Apple’s fees should be the same isn’t a sound one.

If I can put Game Pass on iOS … if you just look at the scale, there are a billion mobile phones on the planet. 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 full interview is absolutely worth a read, so go take a gander (or listen!) at The Verge.

Are you looking forward to getting to use xCloud on your iOS devices, no matter how it works?