Hit iPhone controller Backbone One scores Xbox Game Pass partnership at xCloud’s iOS launch today

Backbone One, the killer iPhone game pad I profiled here late last year has just scored the mother of all tie-ups for a gaming accessory. It’s getting bundled with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate as it launches on iOS today alongside the xCloud game streaming service.

As a part of the deal, Backbone is being bundled with Xbox Game Pass in a new retail packaging that gets the Designed for Xbox stamp, making a Backbone + iPhone combo the closest thing we’ve ever seen to a portable Xbox. 

In my last piece I noted how Backbone cleverly used the accessory APIs built into iOS to offer super slick functionality for its cross-game dashboard. It’s been updating that dashboard to get better about showing you games, exposing you to new games and letting you use its clipping features to share killer plays with your friends. It’s one of the best gaming apps I’ve seen on iOS in years, and it has big potential to create a cross-universe place to play for the biggest gaming audience in the world. 

The Capture Button on Backbone One works with Xbox Cloud Gaming and lets you share it as a link. There’s also a new Xbox Game Pass feed and a way to move between Xbox and iOS games in the same interface. There’s  also a big callout for Xbox Remote Play, a feature that’s still super-under-utilized and actually quite good on current gen consoles. 

And the package even makes use of an AppClip to display an AR version of Backbone running xCloud for people happening on the retail packaging at a store. 

The Backbone team continues to impress with its slick and clever integrations and solid instincts. The game controller pedigree of the team shows (some original Xbox 360 controller team members worked on Backbone) but the software aspects are the most impressive. The way that Backbone unifies gaming experiences across AAA iOS ports like Warzone or Minecraft, Xbox and Playstation Remote Play and now native xCloud games feels like the way of the future for mobile gaming in a way that none of the individual players, including Apple, has managed to get right. 

Even though xCloud games are web based they are treated and presented as native apps inside Backbone’s really well done dashboard. I’ve personally played a lot of Destiny 2 over Stadia on Backbone and it feels fantastic, I can’t wait for it to be more directly integrated into the dash with clipping and social like the Xbox cloud titles are today. 

The experience of discovering, downloading and playing a game is better with a Backbone installed than even Apple Arcade now that the team is getting more into curation. They’ve also got a really slick linking mechanism that allows you to download apps right from the App Store if you see a clip of them being shared on your feed. This is how internet native players want to find and play new games — a continuously hyperlinked world of games and streams that makes it possible to see, follow and play without having to stop to manually search for anything.  

It’s also making me yearn for a time when discovering games goes beyond ‘downloading’ them and into a world where I can see a clip shared by a friend, tap on it and be playing a single level or match that gets me hooked before having to go buy the game. It would be a killer acquisition onramp for new players. 

The Microsoft tie up means that someone who purchases the Backbone for $99 from its website or at Microsoft Stores today gets 3 months of Game Pass Ultimate, making this the absolute best deal for new customers considering GPU is $45 alone. That’s bound to be a huge boost for Backbone as a young gaming startup. 

#app-store, #apple, #apple-arcade, #backbone, #cloud-gaming, #controller, #iphone, #microsoft-store, #tc, #xbox, #xbox-cloud-gaming

Xbox cloud upgrade is live: Series X power on your browser for over 260 games

Xbox Game Streaming works on a wide variety of devices—and they all now benefit from Microsoft's upgraded servers.

Enlarge / Xbox Game Streaming works on a wide variety of devices—and they all now benefit from Microsoft’s upgraded servers. (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images | Microsoft)

Microsoft’s bullishness about Xbox as a cloud-gaming platform got a lot bolder on Tuesday with the surprise launch.of a previously teased change: an upgrade to the server farm that powers the cloud portion of Game Pass Ultimate. Long story short, it’s now much more powerful, enough to make Xbox’s $15/month Game Pass Ultimate an increasingly attractive subscription option.

Xbox Game Streaming, which was previously known as Project xCloud, works much like Google Stadia, Amazon Luna, and other cloud-streaming options. Pick a game, and a server farm will spin up a personal instance and beam its gameplay video to your preferred, Internet-connected device while tracking your local button taps. The concept is a downgrade from locally owned hardware for a few reasons, including button-tap latency and hits to any ISP bandwidth caps. But it’s also arguably easier for some households than buying a new console.

The Xbox version has been quite attractive thanks to its value proposition. It includes over 260 games as part of a $15/month subscription, as opposed to a smaller Luna library, service-compatibility issues with Nvidia GeForce Now, and the a la carte pricing universe of Stadia. (Game Pass also comes in $10/month flavors, meant specifically for local hardware.) Up until now, however, the catch has been measly power on the server-farm side, since its cloud instances regressed to the “base” Xbox One console spec. Earlier this month, Xbox execs confirmed that its server fleet would begin upgrading to the Xbox Series X spec, which supports higher frame rates, higher pixel resolutions, faster loading times, and advanced rendering features.

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#cloud-gaming, #gaming-culture, #google-stadia, #project-xcloud, #stadia, #xbox-cloud-gaming, #xbox-series-x

Microsoft plans to launch dedicated Xbox cloud gaming hardware

Microsoft will soon launch a dedicated device for game streaming, the company announced today. It’s also working with a number of TV manufacturers to build the Xbox experience right into their internet-connected screens and Microsoft plans to bring build cloud gaming to the PC Xbox app later this year, too, with a focus on play-before-you-buy scenarios.

It’s unclear what these new game streaming devices will look like. Microsoft didn’t provide any further details. But chances are, we’re talking about either a Chromecast-like streaming stick or a small Apple TV-like box. So far, we also don’t know which TV manufacturers it will partner with.

It’s no secret that Microsoft is bullish about cloud gaming. With Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, it’s already making it possible for its subscribers to play more than 100 console games on Android, streamed from the Azure cloud, for example. In a few weeks, it’ll open cloud gaming in the browser on Edge, Chrome and Safari, to all Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers (it’s currently in limited beta). And it is bringing Game Pass Ultimate to Australia, Brazil, Mexico and Japan later this year, too.

In many ways, Microsoft is unbundling gaming from the hardware — similar to what Google is trying with Stadia (an effort that, so far, has fallen flat for Google) and Amazon with Luna. The major advantage Microsoft has here is a large library of popular games, something that’s mostly missing on competing services, with the exception of Nvidia’s GeForce Now platform — though that one has a different business model since its focus is not on a subscription but on allowing you to play the games you buy in third-party stores like Steam or the Epic store.

What Microsoft clearly wants to do is expand the overall Xbox ecosystem, even if that means it sells fewer dedicated high-powered consoles. The company likens this to the music industry’s transition to cloud-powered services backed by all-you-can-eat subscription models.

“We believe that games, that interactive entertainment, aren’t really about hardware and software. It’s not about pixels. It’s about people. Games bring people together,”
said Microsoft’s Xbox head Phil Spencer. “Games build bridges and forge bonds, generating mutual empathy among people all over the world. Joy and community -that’s why we’re here.”

It’s worth noting that Microsoft says it’s not doing away with dedicated hardware, though, and is already working on the next generation of its console hardware — but don’t expect a new Xbox console anytime soon.

#amazon, #android, #australia, #brazil, #cloud-gaming, #computing, #directx, #gadgets, #gaming, #google, #hardware, #japan, #luna, #mexico, #microsoft, #nvidia, #phil-spencer, #tc, #xbox, #xbox-cloud-gaming, #xbox-game-pass

Xbox Cloud Gaming beta starts rolling out on iOS and PC this week

The era of cloud gaming hasn’t arrived with the intensity that may have seemed imminent a couple years ago when major tech platforms announced their plays. In 2021, the market is still pretty much non-existent despite established presences from nearly all of tech’s biggest players.

Microsoft has been slow to roll out its Xbox Cloud Gaming beta to its users widely across platforms, but that’s likely because they know that, unlike other upstart platforms, there’s not a huge advantage to them rushing out the gate first. This week, the company will begin rolling out the service on iOS and PC to Game Pass Ultimate users, sending out invited to a limited number of users and scaling it up over time.

“The limited beta is our time to test and learn; we’ll send out more invites on a continuous basis to players in all 22 supported countries, evaluate feedback, continue to improve the experience, and add support for more devices,” wrote Xbox’s Catherine Gluckstein in a blog post. “Our plan is to iterate quickly and open up to all Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members in the coming months so more people have the opportunity to play Xbox in all-new ways.”

The service has been available in beta for Android users since last year but it’s been a slow expansion to other platforms outside that world.

A big part of that slowdown has been the result of Apple playing hardball with cloud gaming platform providers, whose business models represent a major threat to App Store gaming revenues. Apple announced a carve-out provision for cloud-gaming platforms that would maintain dependency on the App Store and in-app purchase frameworks but none of the providers seemed very happy with Apple’s solution. As a result, Xbox Cloud Gaming will operate entirely through the web on iOS inside mobile Safari.

#android, #app-store, #apple, #cloud-computing, #cloud-gaming, #computing, #gaming, #microsoft, #xbox, #xbox-cloud-gaming, #xbox-game-pass-ultimate

Xbox Game Streaming app is now live on Windows—via a sneaky download

Surprise: Xbox Game Streaming, the Stadia-like service that delivers over 200 games for a flat $15/mo rate, now works on Windows 10 PCs. The catch, for the time being, is that it’s not officially out yet.

A workaround that quietly leaked in late 2020 is finally making the rounds thanks to recent Reddit and YouTube shares. In that span of time, Microsoft has yet to plug this method of getting the game-streaming service, currently an Android exclusive, up and running on your PC. It requires accessing and downloading an app that is otherwise buried in an official Microsoft database, then using a one-time unlock phrase to get it functioning.

But the steps are simple and safe enough, as I’ve tested, to recommend it to anyone eager to test Xbox’s streaming option on their favorite Win10 laptop or desktop—and to finally see how Xbox Game Streaming (formerly known as Project xCloud) performs on wired Ethernet connections.

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#cloud-gaming, #gaming-culture, #google-stadia, #project-xcloud, #xbox-game-pass, #xbox-game-streaming

The Roblox final fantasy

Hello friends, and welcome to Week in Review.

Last week, I talked a bit about NFTs and their impact on artists. If you’re inundated with NFT talk just take one quick look at this story I wrote this week about the $69 million sale of Beeple’s photo collage. This hype cycle is probably all the result of crypto folks talking each other up and buying each other’s stuff, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be lasting impacts. That said, I would imagine we’re pretty close to the peak of this wave, with a larger one down the road after things cool off a bit. I’ve been wrong before though…

This week, I’m interested in a quick look at what your kids have been talking about all these years. Yes, Roblox.

If you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox from the newsletter page, and follow my tweets @lucasmtny.


David Baszucki, founder and CEO of Roblox - Roblox Developer Conference 2019

(Photo by Ian Tuttle/Getty Images for Roblox)

The big thing

Roblox went public on the New York Stock Exchange this week, scoring a $38 billion market cap after its first couple days of trading.

Investors rallied around the idea that Roblox is one of the most valuable gaming companies in existence. More than Unity, Zynga, Take-Two, even gaming giant Electronic Arts. It’s still got a ways to go to take down Microsoft, Sony or Apple though… The now-public company is so freaking huge because investors believe the company has tapped into something that none of the others have, a true interconnected creative marketplace where gamers can evolve alongside an evolving library of experiences that all share the same DNA (and in-game currency).

The gaming industry has entered a very democratic stride as cross-play tears down some of the walls of gaming’s platform dynamics. Each hardware platform that operates an app store of their own still has the keys to a kingdom, but it’s a shifting world with uncertainty ahead. While massive publishers have tapped cloud gaming as the trend that will string their blockbuster franchises together, they all wish they were in Roblox’s position. The gaming industry has seen plenty of Goliath’s in its day, but for every major MMO to strike it rich, it’s still just another winner in a field of disparate hits with no connective tissue.

Roblox is different, and while many of us still have the aged vision of the image above: a bunch of rudimentary Minecraft/Playmobile-looking mini-games, Roblox’s game creation tools are advancing quickly and developers are building photorealistic games that are wider in ambition and scope than before. As the company levels-up the age range it appeals to — both by holding its grasp on aging gamers on its platform and using souped-up titles to appeal to a new-generation — there’s a wholly unique platform opportunity here: the chance to have the longevity of an app store but with the social base layer that today’s cacophony of titles have never shared.

Whether or not Roblox is the “metaverse” that folks in the gaming world have been hyping, it certainly looks more like it than any other modern gaming company does.


SHENYANG, CHINA – MARCH 08: Customers try out iPhone 12 smartphones at an Apple store on March 8, 2021 in Shenyang, Liaoning Province of China. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

Other things

Apple releases some important security patches
It was honestly a pretty low-key week of tech news, I’ll admit, but folks in the security world might not totally buy that characterization. This week, Apple released some critical updates for its devices, fixing a Safari vulnerability that could allow attackers to run malicious code on a user’s unpatched devices. Update your stuff, y’all.

TikTok gets proactive on online bullying
New social media platforms have had the benefit of seeing the easy L’s that Facebook teed itself up for. For TikTok, its China connection means that there’s less room for error when it comes to easily avoidable losses. The team announced some new anti-bullying features aimed at cutting down on toxicity in comment feeds.

Dropbox buys DocSend
Cloud storage giants are probably in need of a little reinvention, the enterprise software boom of the pandemic has seemed to create mind-blowing amounts of value for every SaaS company except these players. This week, Dropbox made a relatively big bet on document sharing startup DocSend. It’s seemingly a pretty natural fit for them, but can they turn in into a bigger opportunity?

Epic Games buys photogrammetry studio
As graphics cards and consoles have hit new levels of power, games have had to satisfy desired for more details and complexity. It takes a wild amount of time to create 3D assets with that complexity so plenty of game developers have leaned on photogrammetry which turns a series of photos or scans of a real world object or environment into a 3D model. This week, Epic Games bought one of the better known software makers in this space, called Capturing Reality, with the aim of integrating the tech into future versions of their game engine.

Twitter Spaces launches publicly next month
I’ve spent some more time with Twitter Spaces this week and am growing convinced that it has a substantial chance to kneecap Clubhouse’s growth. Twitter is notoriously slow to roll out products, but it seems they’ve been hitting the gas on Spaces, announcing this week that it will be available widely by next month.

Seth Rogen starts a weed company
There’s a lot of money in startups, there’s really never been a better time to get capital for a project… if you know the right people and have the right kind of expertise. Seth Rogen and weed are a pretty solid mental combo and him starting a weed company shouldn’t be a big shock.


A Coupang Corp. delivery truck drives past a company's fulfillment center in Bucheon, South Korea, on Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. South Korean e-commerce giant Coupang filed for an initial public offering in the U.S. and that could raise billions of dollars to battle rivals and kick off a record year for IPOs in the Asian country. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images

SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Extra things

Some of my favorite reads from our Extra Crunch subscription service this week:

Coupang follows Roblox to a strong first day of trading
“Another day brings another public debut of a multibillion-dollar company that performed well out of the gate.This time it’s Coupang, whose shares are currently up just over 46% to more than $51 after pricing at $35, $1 above the South Korean e-commerce giant’s IPO price range. Raising one’s range and then pricing above it only to see the public markets take the new equity higher is somewhat par for the course when it comes to the most successful recent debuts, to which we can add Coupang.” More

How nontechnical talent can break into deep tech
“Startup hiring processes can be opaque, and breaking into the deep tech world as a nontechnical person seems daunting. As someone with no initial research background wanting to work in biotech, I felt this challenge personally. In the past year, I landed several opportunities working for and with deep tech companies. More

Does your VC have an investment thesis or a hypothesis?
“Venture capitalists love to talk investment theses: on Twitter, Medium, Clubhouse, at conferences. And yet, when you take a closer look, theses are often meaningless and/or misleading…” More


Once more, if you liked reading this, you can get it in your inbox from the newsletter page, and follow my tweets @lucasmtny.

#apple, #apple-inc, #china, #cloud-gaming, #computing, #coupang, #docsend, #dropbox, #electronic-arts, #epic-games, #extra-crunch, #facebook, #gamer, #getty, #getty-images, #iphone, #microsoft, #online-games, #roblox, #smartphones, #software, #sony, #tc, #technology, #twitter, #week-in-review, #zynga

Google Stadia is now available on iOS

A few weeks after announcing that iOS support was on the way, Google’s cloud gaming service now supports the iPhone and iPad. As expected, the company is using a web app to access the service. Google also says that you need to update to iOS 14.3, the latest iOS update that was released earlier this week.

If you want to try it out with a free or paid Stadia account, you can head over to stadia.google.com from your iOS device. Log in to your Google account, add a shortcut to your home screen and open the web app.

After that, you can launch a game and start playing. Most games will require a gamepad, so you might want to pair a gamepad with your iPhone or iPad as well.

Apple’s iOS supports Xbox One and PlayStation 4 controllers using Bluetooth as well as controllers specifically designed for iOS. You can also play with the Stadia controller, but it’s optional. If you just want to check your inventory quickly, Stadia on iOS also supports touch controls.

Stadia works a bit like a console that runs in the cloud. You have to buy games for the platform specifically and you can then stream them from a data center near you. Recent additions include Cyberpunk 2077 and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.

While you don’t have to pay an additional subscription to play those games, you can optionally become a Stadia Pro subscribers. In addition to games you bought on the platform, it lets you access a library of games and it unlocks 4K video. Stadia Pro costs $9.99 per month.

In other Stadia news, earlier this week, Ubisoft announced that you could subscribe to the company’s unlimited subscription service Ubisoft+ and access games from Stadia. For now, it’s only available as a beta in the U.S.

#cloud-gaming, #gaming, #google, #google-stadia, #stadia

Cloud-gaming platforms were 2020’s most overhyped trend

It was an unprecedented year for [insert anything under the sun], and while plenty of tech verticals saw shifts that warped business models and shifted user habits, the gaming industry experienced plenty of new ideas in 2020. However, the loudest trends don’t always take hold as predicted.

This year, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon each leaned hard into new cloud-streaming tech that shifts game processing and computing to cloud-based servers, allowing users to play graphics-intensive content on low-powered systems or play titles without dealing with lengthy downloads.

It was heralded by executives as a tectonic shift for gaming, one that would democratize access to the next generation of titles. But in taking a closer look at the products built around this tech, it’s hard to see a future where any of these subscription services succeed.

Massive year-over-year changes in gaming are rare because even if a historically unique platform launches or is unveiled, it takes time for a critical mass of developers to congregate and adopt something new — and longer for users to coalesce. As a result, even in a year where major console makers launch historically powerful hardware, massive tech giants pump cash into new cloud-streaming tech and gamers log more hours collectively than ever before, it can feel like not much has shifted.

That said, the gaming industry did push boundaries in 2020, though it’s unclear where meaningful ground was gained. The most ambitious drives were toward redesigning marketplaces in the image of video streaming networks, aiming to make a more coordinated move toward driving subscription growth and moving farther away from an industry defined for decades by one-time purchases structured around single-player storylines, one dramatically shaped by internet networking and instantaneous payments infrastructure software.

Today’s products are far from dead ends for what the broader industry does with the technology.

But shifting gamers farther away from one-off purchases wasn’t even the gaming industry’s most fundamental reconsideration of the year, a space reserved for a coordinated move by the world’s richest companies to upend the console wars with an invisible competitor. It’s perhaps unsurprising that the most full-featured plays in this arena are coming from the cloud services triumvirate, with Google, Microsoft and Amazon each making significant strides in recent months.

The driving force for this change is both the maturation of virtual desktop streaming and continued developer movement toward online cross-play between gaming platforms, a trend long resisted by legacy platform owners intent on maintaining siloed network effects that pushed gamers toward buying the same consoles that their friends owned.

The cross-play trend reached a fever pitch in recent years as entities like Epic Games’ Fortnite developed massive user bases that gave developers exceptional influence over the deals they struck with platform owners.

While a trend toward deeper cross-play planted the seeds for new corporate players in the gaming world, it has been the tech companies with the deepest pockets that have pioneered the most concerted plays to side-load a third-party candidate into the console wars.

It’s already clear to plenty of gamers that even in their nascent stages, cloud-gaming platforms aren’t meeting up to their hype and standalone efforts aren’t technologically stunning enough to make up for the apparent lack of selection in the content libraries.

#cloud, #cloud-gaming, #epic-games, #gaming, #health, #stadia, #subscription-services, #tc, #ubisoft

Nvidia reportedly bringing Fortnite back to iOS through its cloud gaming service

Nvidia is bringing Fortnite back to iPhones and iPads, according to a report from the BBC.

The British news service is reporting that Nvidia has developed a version of its GeForce cloud gaming service that runs on Safari.

The development means that Fortnite gamers can play the Epic Games title off of servers run by Nvidia. What’s not clear is whether the cloud gaming service will mean significant lag times for players that could effect their gameplay.

Apple customers have been unable to download new versions of Epic Games’ marquee title after the North Carolina-based company circumvented Apple’s rules around in-game payments.

Revenues and rules are at the center of the conflict between Epic and Apple. Epic had developed an in-game marketplace where transactions were not subject to the 30% charges that Apple places on transactions conducted through its platform.

The maneuver was a clear violation of Apple’s terms of service, but Epic is arguing that the rules themselves are unfair and an example of Apple’s monopolistic hold over distribution of applications on its platform.

The ongoing legal dispute won’t even see the inside of a courtroom until May and it could be years before the lawsuit is resolved.

That’s going to create a lot of hassles for the nearly 116 million iOS Fortnite players, especially for the 73 million players that only use Apple products to access the game, according to the BBC report.

Unlike Android, Apple does not allow games or other apps to be loaded on to its phones or tablets via app stores other than its own.

Nvidia already offers its GeForce gaming service for Mac, Windows, Android and Chromebook computers, but the new version will be available on Apple mobile devices as well, according to the BBC report.

If it moves ahead, Nvidia’s cloud gaming service would be the only one on the market to support iOS users. Neither Amazon’s Luna cloud-gaming platform, nor Google’s Stadia service carry Fortnite.

#android, #apple, #cloud-gaming, #epic-games, #fortnite, #geforce, #nvidia, #stadia, #tc, #video-games

Facebook’s cloud gaming offering focuses on free-to-play mobile games

Facebook is the latest tech giant to follow the likes of Microsoft, Google, and Amazon into the game streaming space. But Facebook’s effort differs from the competition by focusing exclusively on the kind of free-to-play games that are “typically played on mobile devices.”

Facebook VP of Play Jason Rubin lays out the thinking behind this move in a blog post this morning. The company’s new game streaming service won’t be a separate platform, a la Microsoft xCloud, Google Stadia, or Amazon Luna. Instead, streamed titles will be integrated into Facebook’s existing Instant Games platform, which hundreds of millions of players already use to run simple HTML5 games in the News Feed or a separate Gaming tab.

“People will play cloud-streamed games right alongside those playing instant games in HTML5,” Rubin writes. “And if we do our jobs right, you won’t notice how the games are delivered.”

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#cloud, #cloud-gaming, #facebook, #game-streaming, #gaming-culture

Facebook steps into cloud gaming — and another feud with Apple

Facebook will soon be the latest tech giant to enter the world of cloud gaming. Their approach is different than what Microsoft or Google has built but Facebook highlights a shared central challenge: dealing with Apple.

Facebook is not building a console gaming competitor to compete with Stadia or xCloud, instead the focus is wholly on mobile games. Why cloud stream mobile games that your device is already capable of running locally? Facebook is aiming to get users into games more quickly and put less friction between a user seeing an advertisement for a game and actually playing it themselves. Users can quickly tap into the title without downloading anything and if they eventually opt to download the title from a mobile app store, they’ll be able to pick up where they left off.

Facebook’s service will launch on the desktop web and Android, but not iOS due to what Facebook frames as usability restrictions outlined in Apple’s App Store terms and conditions.

With the new platform, users will  be able to start playing mobile games directly from Facebook ads. Image via Facebook.

While Apple has suffered an onslaught of criticism in 2020 from developers of major apps like Spotify, Tinder and Fortnite for how much money they take as a cut from revenues of apps downloaded from the App Store, the plights of companies aiming to build cloud gaming platforms have been more nuanced and are tied to how those platforms are fundamentally allowed to operate on Apple devices.

Apple was initially slow to provide a path forward for cloud gaming apps from Google and Microsoft, which had previously been outlawed on the App Store. The iPhone maker recently updated its policies to allow these apps to exist, but in a more convoluted capacity than the platform makers had hoped, forcing them to first send users to the App Store before being able to cloud stream a gaming title on their platform.

For a user downloading a lengthy single-player console epic, the short pitstop is an inconvenience, but long-time Facebook gaming exec Jason Rubin says that the stipulations are a non-starter for what Facebook’s platform envisions, a way to start playing mobile games immediately without downloading anything.

“It’s a sequence of hurdles that altogether make a bad consumer experience,” Rubin tells TechCrunch.

Apple tells TechCrunch that they have continued to engage with Facebook on bringing its gaming efforts under its guidelines and that platforms can reach iOS by either submitting each individual game to the App Store for review or operating their service on Safari.

In terms of building the new platform onto the mobile web, Rubin says that without being able to point users of their iOS app to browser-based experiences, as current rules forbid, Facebook doesn’t see pushing its billions of users to accessing the service primarily from a browser as a reasonable alternative. In a Zoom call, Rubin demoes how this  could operate on iOS, with users tapping an advertisement inside the app and being redirected to a game experience in mobile Safari.

“But if I click on that, I can’t go to the web. Apple says, ‘No, no, no, no, no, you can’t do that,’ Rubin tells us. “Apple may say that it’s a free and open web, but what you can actually build on that web is dictated by what they decide to put in their core functionality.”

Facebook VP of Play Jason Rubin. Image via Facebook.

Rubin, who co-founded the game development studio Naughty Dog in 1994 before it was acquired by Sony in 2001, has been at Facebook since he joined Oculus months after its 2014 acquisition was announced. Rubin had previously been tasked with managing the games ecosystem for its virtual reality headsets, this year he was put in charge of the company’s gaming initiatives across their core family of apps as the company’s VP of Play.

Rubin, well familiar with game developer/platform skirmishes, was quick to distinguish the bone Facebook had to pick with Apple and complaints from those like Epic Games which sued Apple this summer.

“I do want to put a pin in the fact that we’re giving Google 30% [on Android]. The Apple issue is not about money,” Rubin tells TechCrunch. “We can talk about whether or not it’s fair that Google takes that 30%. But we would be willing to give Apple the 30% right now, if they would just let consumers have the opportunity to do what we’re offering here.”

Facebook is notably also taking a 30% cut of transaction within these games, even as Facebook’s executive team has taken its own shots at Apple’s steep revenue fee in the past, most recently criticizing how Apple’s App Store model was hurting small businesses during the pandemic. This saga eventually led to Apple announcing that it would withhold its cut through the end of the year for ticket sales of small businesses hosting online events.

Apple’s reticence to allow major gaming platforms a path towards independently serving up games to consumers underscores the significant portion of App Store revenues that could be eliminated by a consumer shift towards these cloud platforms. Apple earned around $50 billion from the App Store last year, CNBC estimates, and gaming has long been their most profitable vertical.

Though Facebook is framing this as an uphill battle against a major platform for the good of the gamer, this is hardly a battle between two underdogs. Facebook pulled in nearly $70 billion in ad revenues last year and improving their offerings for mobile game studios could be a meaningful step towards increasing that number, something Apple’s App Store rules threaten.

For the time being, Facebook is keeping this launch pretty conservative. There are just 5-10 titles that are going to be available at launch, Rubin says. Facebook is rolling out access to the new service, which is free, this week across a handful of states in America, including California, Texas, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia and West Virginia. The hodge-podge nature of the geographic rollout is owed to the technical limitations of cloud-gaming– people have to be close to data centers where the service has rolled out in order to have a usable experience. Facebook is aiming to scale to the rest of the U.S. in the coming months, they say.

#america, #android, #app-store, #california, #cloud-gaming, #computing, #connecticut, #delaware, #epic-games, #executive, #facebook, #google, #iphone, #jason-rubin, #maryland, #massachusetts, #microsoft, #mobile-app, #mobile-game, #new-jersey, #new-york, #operating-systems, #pennsylvania, #rhode-island, #software, #sony, #spotify, #tc, #texas, #tinder, #united-states, #virginia, #virtual-reality, #vp, #washington-d-c, #web-browser, #xcloud