In a move that surprises no one who’s been watching the company for the last year or so, Microsoft has announced that its Xbox Game Pass streaming platform will be coming to more screens in the spring of 2021. Specifically, it’s coming to the iPhone and iPad via the “mobile web browser” and to Windows PCs via the Xbox app.
Both of these moves have been signaled by Microsoft and leaked elsewhere, and they’re following in the footsteps of Microsoft’s streaming competition: NVIDIA GeForce NOW, Google Stadia, and Amazon’s new Luna. All of them had to get over a platform hurdle for iOS, Apple’s effective block on third-party game streaming services in the App Store. Following either the announcement or implementation of browser-based streaming apps, all of the major game streaming services now have plans for a web solution on the iPhone or iPad.
But the confirmation of a streaming PC app might be more impressive. By allowing Game Pass Ultimate subscribers to access games on a Windows PC, with or without the dedicated graphics required for the PC games already downloadable via the Pass, Microsoft is pushing Xbox as a game platform that doesn’t need any new hardware. For $15 a month, you can play a fantastic library of games (including a small but notable selection of exclusives) with just a cheap laptop or phone. It’s a bullish position for a company that’s also trying to sell new game consoles, the Xbox Series X and Series S.
It’s worth pointing out that Microsoft did not say it would be offering the same streaming access to Mac users, and recent indications of a smart TV application were left out of this post. I’d take that to mean that they aren’t on the way in early 2021, but not that they aren’t being worked on at all. Microsoft’s Game Pass strategy is all about being everywhere, all the time.
In addition to streaming to iOS and Windows PCs, Microsoft announced that Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is coming to new markets: Australia, Brazil, Japan, and Mexico.