Highlights –

  • Xbox Cloud Gaming will not be available in the App Store and can be accessed via Safari on iPhone and iPad.
  • The game is free to play; there’s no need for installation or subscription.

To level up the game against Apple, Microsoft is banking on Epic Games — it will be bringing Fortnite back to iOS in the process. This week, the tech giant revealed its partnership with Epic to facilitate Fortnite’s availability on Apple devices via its game streaming service, Xbox Cloud Gaming. The famous battle royale game can now be played on Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud Gaming platform, supported on iPhone and iPad via Safari.

The struggle, however, is not over yet, as iOS users will be able to play the game on their devices with a little bit of a workaround now. Users cannot just waltz into the App Store and ask for it. They will have to first go to Apple’s Safari browser and visit Xbox.com/play to play. The process is less straightforward but only takes a few minutes to set up. While users will not have to take a paid subscription to start playing, they will have to log in to a Microsoft account and link it with their Epic Games account.

Technically speaking, the new Microsoft workaround is the second loophole that brings the hit shooter back to iPhones and iPads. Early this year, Nvidia had revealed that Fortnite would be playable through the chipmaker’s game streaming service, GeForce Now. However, Microsoft’s experience is likely to be more fascinating.

Epic kicked off the battle against Apple in 2020 when it tried to skirt the company’s 30% cut of in-app purchases, getting the hit game kicked off iOS in the process. Next was a legal battle where Epic sued Apple, accusing the latter of violating antitrust laws. While a California court was not sure, it did call upon Apple to provide developers more flexibility to point customers toward payment processes beyond the company’s infamous walled garden.

Microsoft and Apple were once arch-rivals, but competitive tensions between them have eased in recent times.

Microsoft’s partnership with Epic makes sense because the tech company has been betting big on cloud gaming. Fortnite-maker Epic is one of the rare gaming companies with full-proof cross-platform online multiplayer dialled in. It’s also a useful defensive position against Apple on an issue that’s already created a rift between the companies.

Seemingly, Apple thwarted Microsoft’s plans to float an expansive all-in-one Xbox Cloud Gaming iOS app. It did so by making it essential for individual games to be downloaded separately — an imitation that proves why Microsoft is pointing people to the browser for Fortnite instead of the App Store.

Microsoft says that Fortnite will be its first popular free-to-play cloud gaming title, but not its last. “At Xbox we want to make gaming accessible to the 3 billion players around the world, and cloud has an important role in that mission,” Xbox Cloud Gaming Head of Product Catherine Gluckstein said. “Quite simply we want you to have more choice in both the games you play and the way you choose to play them.”