With Windows Phone sadly confined to the history books, Microsoft’s mobility efforts continue in Surface tablets, mobile apps and their own range of Android phones in the form of the Surface Duo 2. However, without a third option in the he mobile space, iOS and Google may have presided over an infamous duopoly that actively stifles competition, while driving up prices for developers and consumers.
Longtime Windows Central readers may remember how tirelessly Google worked to undermine and stifle the Windows Phone platform. Google has arbitrarily restricted access to its APIs, preventing Microsoft and third-party developers from building Windows Phone versions of its apps. Notoriously, Microsoft built a YouTube client in partnership with Google, until the company randomly decided that Microsoft’s YouTube app “violated” its API rules, leading to native YouTube access effectively ending on Windows Phone. This bad faith anti-competitive behavior is not below Google (e.g. no ARM version of Chrome browser for Windows 11), as we all know, and they endured Billions fines around the world for this kind of practice. Still, they managed to contribute to the death of Windows Phone, cementing their monopoly on low-cost smartphones for now and into the near future.
However, Microsoft may be preparing for revenge. Say hello to the Xbox Store for mobile.
Ending the Apple Google duopoly
Increasingly, the Google-Apple duopoly is coming under scrutiny. The UK CMA has just announced today that it is investigating Apple for blocking Xbox Game Pass and other streaming services. Epic Games is waging a very nasty court battle in the US over Apple’s App Store rules. Apple stipulates that a whopping 30% of all profits from third-party app stores go directly to Apple, despite having little to no involvement in these products. Apple also doesn’t allow users of its phones to use third-party app stores or even download apps without aggressive jailbreaking, which most users simply won’t do.
Epic Games attempted to circumvent Apple’s rules with its industry-leading battle royale shooter Fortnite. Apple responded by banning the app. Similarly, Apple is also blocking Xbox Game Pass on iPhones because it anticompetitively doesn’t want Microsoft’s high-value subscription service to distract from its army of low-quality paid mobile games focused on on the game which are a constant source of free cash, to the detriment of users and developers.
Google allows Xbox Game Pass on its platform, but it’s not much better overall. Google also blocked Fortnite when Epic set up its own in-game payment system and was accused by Epic of paying bribes to Activision-Blizzard to prevent them from creating their own in-game store. mobile apps, which Activision denies.
There are potentially billions of dollars at stake in the mobile gaming wars. Titles like Diablo Immortal, Minecraft, Call of Duty Mobile, and Roblox are making money on iOS and Android, due to the ease of access offered by mobile. However, a lot of those profits don’t go to developers and creators, they go straight into the pockets of Apple and Google. On Windows, developers can put their titles on a wide variety of platforms that compete on the cuts taken. The Microsoft Store cut its cut for apps and games a while ago, as did Steam, in the face of competition from the Epic Store. That’s how competition is supposed to work – and Google and Apple don’t like it. But Microsoft, Epic Games and others are working to break this duopoly.
Microsoft has already developed an Android subsystem for Windows and has partnered with Amazon to bring an Android alternative to Windows 11. Windows 11, unlike iOS, is a completely open platform that allows competing stores to coexist with free Microsoft Store.
Google allows some of its Android OEMs to install their own app stores and services, which is why we believe Android provides the best phones for Windows users. Samsung has its Galaxy Store, for example, which is currently the only mobile app store where Epic Games’ Fortnite is available since Samsung doesn’t charge such a hefty tax on publishers putting apps and games through its platform. form. And soon, it may be one of the only places where many Activision-Blizzard mobile games are also available.
Microsoft is considering potentially creating its own Xbox Store for mobile games, according to comments it made to the UK Competition Authority (CMA).
“The transaction will enhance Microsoft’s ability to build a next-generation game store that works across a range of devices, including mobile through the addition of content from Activision Blizzard. Leveraging the communities of existing Activision Blizzard players, Xbox will look to evolve the Xbox Store on mobile, bringing players to a new Xbox mobile platform.” — Microsoft at the UK AMC.
If Microsoft manages to complete its Activision-Blizzard deal in 2023, it will give it control and control of major mobile titles such as Candy Crush, Call of Duty Mobile, Diablo Immortal, and various other upcoming games in development. Microsoft’s own Xbox Store for mobile could also become the home of Xbox Game Pass, which is arbitrarily blocked on iOS as we mentioned, and restricted on Google Play due to Google’s 30% tax on purchases. integrated. Developers moving from Xbox Game Pass to Android cannot monetize their games beyond the upfront payment, due to Google policies. It stifles independent developers, stifles creative innovation, and anti-competitively inhibits the provision of alternative stores on mobile.
Mobile games are incredibly lucrative, and Microsoft may soon have an incredibly popular portfolio of blockbuster mobile titles that will finally give it the power to challenge Google and Apple’s dominance in mobile games. There is a future where Microsoft and others are teaming up to return control to users and developers in the process by forcing mobile platforms to become more open and Windows-like.
Xbox: Forging a Better Deal for Developers
Recently, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer said Xbox would become “unsustainable” if it couldn’t expand to mobile. We all already have a phone; we all need a phone — we don’t all need an Xbox or a gaming PC. And Microsoft knows that. More and more people around the world are choosing to save money by playing with the devices they already own. As phones become more powerful and the quality of mobile games improves, the value proposition of consoles is potentially diminishing. There will always be a market for video game consoles and gaming laptops and PCs, but it’s utter folly to ignore the rise of quality mobile gaming as a real avenue for serious gaming. Moreover, its potential is held back by Google and Apple’s apathy towards the art of game creation, as they promote toxic practices like game mechanics and pay-to-win that promote profits above all else. Traditional games barely cross the swamp on mobile, and that’s partly down to how Google and Apple have shaped their platforms.
What if there was another way? The very idea of a traditional video game publisher bringing their own app store to iOS or Android is enticing. Imagine a mobile game store that discredits gaming and pay-to-win, and instead focuses on quality experiences. Imagine a store that offers developers a larger share of their revenue to reinvest in their games and their developers, instead of paying dividends to shareholders of Apple and Google. Imagine a store that promotes indie games, not just those with the money to pay for Google Ads. These are things that Microsoft seems to be working towards.
If I had to guess, Epic Games and Samsung are probably on board to partner up. Given that Fortnite is already on the Samsung Galaxy app store and Xbox Cloud Gaming platform and given Microsoft’s deep partnership with Samsung to integrate Microsoft services on Android. It makes perfect sense to me that there’s a future where these companies come together to create a new type of mobile store that puts customers and developers first, rather than Apple and Google.
I would be lying if I suggested that there isn’t a degree of schadenfreude here for me. As someone who was burned by Google’s monopolistic behavior during Windows Phone, and as someone irritated by Apple’s arbitrary blocking of Xbox Game Pass – nothing would make me happier than to see regulators force Google and Apple to allow competing app stores to be installed in the out-of-the-box experience.
Microsoft and Epic Games are promoting a separate app store on Android and iOS that gives developers and consumers a better deal. Nothing would fill me with joy like seeing GeForce Now, Steam, Xbox Game Pass, PlayStation, Riot Games, Nintendo and anyone else descend on mobile platforms with their own distinct store layouts, promoting a traditional gaming ethos in which is quite honestly an untapped platform.
Google and Apple have created a very narrow market for the kinds of games and business models that can succeed on their platforms, despite the absolutely monstrous ubiquity they both enjoy. It’s time for the mobile platform duopoly to end and for the ghost of Windows Phone to get its revenge. *scary music*