Microsoft’s fight to get xCloud on iOS led to a third-party app getting removed from the App Store

In its fight to try and get xCloud on iOS and iPadOS, it turns out Microsoft led to an entirely different company’s app getting removed from the App Store.

As reported today by The Verge, emails revealed in the Epic Games vs. Apple between Apple and Microsoft show that the battle for cloud gaming on iOS led to one developer’s app getting booted from the digital storefront. As you might recall, Microsoft threw down the gauntlet in 2020, adamant to get xCoud and Xbox Game Streaming out there in the wild for iPhone and iPad users. But that didn’t really work out in the way Microsoft wanted.

First, Apple’s rules for the App Store made launching a service like that basically impossible. Apple simply wasn’t a fan of the idea of a cloud gaming. But, with plenty of pressure from Microsoft and other companies, Apple changed its rules for these services. Unfortunately, those changes weren’t good enough, and companies like Microsoft made it clear that, even with the olive branch from Apple, xCloud wouldn’t get an app in the App Store.

Instead, Microsoft, Amazon, and other companies now offer their cloud game streaming services through Safari (or other supported mobile web browsers).

Interestingly, it’s Microsoft’s fight with Apple that led to disaster for an app called Shadow. Microsoft was showing Apple examples of other “interactive streaming services” the exist in the App Store, including Netflix and Shadow –an app that lets iOS users stream PC games to their devices. Microsoft pointed out it didn’t make sense to continue to block xCloud while these other services were already available.

And then Shadow got booted from the App Store.

We were showing two examples where a game or an application was able to exist, and we didn’t understand why we couldn’t,’ explained Lori Wright, Microsoft’s head of business development for Xbox, during the Epic v. Apple trial today. ‘I believe they [Apple] ended up pulling Shadow out of the App Store based off this email we sent until they submitted changes. That was not our intention of course, it was a byproduct.

Shadow’s removal from the App Store wasn’t permanent, but the app’s been removed more than once from Apple’s App Store. The first time, back in February of last year, was because Apple decided the app’s developers showed a “failure to act in accordance with a specific part of the Apple App Store Guidelines”. The second removal was due to a “misunderstanding” on how the app functioned:

Unlike game streaming services, Shadow provides a full Windows 10 PC, rather than a library of games,’ explained Luc Hancock, a community manager for Shadow. ‘This unique approach allows Shadow to comply with the App Store guidelines, so that you can access your Shadow PC on any iOS device to run your favorite games and software.

Microsoft was obviously not trying to get any other app removed from Apple’s digital store, but it’s an interesting result. Even if it wasn’t permanent, it shows that Apple will go to great lengths to prove a point, if it believes it has a point to prove. Like removing Fortnite from the App Store, for instance.

In any event, have you tried out any of the cloud game streaming services available now for iOS (via Safari)? If so, how has your experience been?