Microsoft is getting ready to launch its Xbox mobile gaming store as soon as next year. The software giant revealed its plans for an Xbox mobile store last year, and now Xbox chief Phil Spencer says the company is building the store in the anticipation of companies like Apple and Google being forced to open up their mobile app stores.
“We want to be in a position to offer Xbox and content from both us and our third-party partners across any screen where somebody would want to play,” said Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer in an interview with the Financial Times. “Today, we can’t do that on mobile devices but we want to build towards a world that we think will be coming where those devices are opened up.”
Microsoft first hinted at a “next-generation store” early last year, just a month after the company announced its proposed Activision Blizzard acquisition. The Xbox mobile store is designed to rival Apple and Google’s mobile gaming store dominance, and will rely on content from Activision Blizzard like Call of Duty: Mobile and Candy Crush Saga — two hugely popular mobile games published by Activision and King, respectively.
While Microsoft is building an Xbox mobile store, it will need regulators to take action against Apple and Google to ensure such a store can thrive on Android and iOS devices. Apple doesn’t allow alternative stores on its iPhone and iPad devices, and even rival payment methods aren’t available in most countries.
Companies like Microsoft and Spotify are hoping the EU’s Digital Markets Act will force Apple and Google to change how they distribute apps on mobile devices, and ultimately open their platforms and stores up to competition.
“The Digital Markets Act that’s coming — those are the kinds of things that we are planning for,” said Spencer. “I think it’s a huge opportunity.” Microsoft has a small presence in mobile gaming right now, and the Xbox maker admitted that in a filing with the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) last year: “Microsoft currently has no meaningful presence in mobile gaming and the [Activision Blizzard] transaction will bring much needed expertise in mobile game development, marketing and advertising.”
Microsoft is also building a broader Xbox mobile platform. Microsoft was quick to support Xbox Cloud Gaming on Valve’s Steam Deck, and also partnered with Logitech and Razer for their cloud gaming-focused handhelds. The upcoming Xbox mobile store would also allow developers to run their own app stores within Microsoft’s Xbox mobile platform.
For any of this to become a reality, Microsoft is still relying on regulatory approval of its proposed Activision Blizzard acquisition. Microsoft has been sparring with the CMA recently, highlighting “clear errors” in the regulator’s financial math. Microsoft is also facing regulatory scrutiny from the European Commission and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
While the EU is reportedly likely to approve Microsoft’s deal, the FTC sued to block it last year, and the case is still at the document discovery stage, with an evidentiary hearing scheduled for August 2nd. FTC lawyers recently requested documents on Microsoft’s “next-generation gaming ecosystem,” which may refer to the company’s plans to build its Xbox mobile gaming store.