Microsoft has reportedly been developing an Xbox mobile storefront that would allow users to bypass Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store and download games off its own application. Earlier this year, Microsoft’s gaming chief Phil Spencer, too, had revealed ahead of the annual Game Developer Conference that the company intended to launch its own app store for both iOS and Android. Now, Xbox is reportedly in talks with partners for the same.
According to a Bloomberg report, Spencer claimed that the Xbox store app on mobile platforms could come out sooner rather than later. “It’s an important part of our strategy and something we are actively working on today not only alone, but talking to other partners who’d also like to see more choice for how they can monetize on the phone,” the report quoted Spencer as saying in an interview at the CCXP comics and entertainment convention in Sao Paolo.
The Xbox chief did not provide a specific launch date for the launch of the storefront but hinted at release window in the not-too-distant future. “I don’t think this is multiple years away, I think this is sooner than that,” he said.
A report in March had claimed that the Xbox mobile store was expected to go live by March 2024, once Microsoft’s $69 billion (roughly Rs. 5,68,094 crore) acquisition of Activision Blizzard was finalised. That happened in October as Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which had earlier blocked the deal, stepped aside and gave approval for the acquisition to go through. The CMA, which held concerns over Microsoft’s cloud streaming dominance in the market, greenlit the deal when Microsoft announced that Call of Duty maker Activision would sell its non-European streaming rights to Ubisoft Entertainment to pacify British regulators.
Now that the deal is closed, it seems the plan to launch the Xbox store app on iOS and Android can go through. Apple and Google maintain strict storefront rules and do not allow app developers to host their applications on a third-party storefront, charging them a cut on every transaction made via the App Store and the Play Store, respectively. The companies’ stringent store policy has, however, come under regulatory scanner. Developers like Epic Games have initiated antitrust proceedings against the two tech giants and the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), which intends to prevent tech giants from abusing their market position, is set to allow other app and game developers to introduce their own app stores on mobile platforms. Tech companies have until March 2024 to comply with all the rules laid out in the DMA.
Last month, Microsoft announced that it was partnering Inworld AI to create game development tools for the Xbox platform, enabling developers to create characters, generate entire scripts and quests, and more. Earlier this year, Xbox also hiked the prices of its popular subscription service, Xbox Game Pass, and its flagship current-gen console, the Xbox Series X.
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