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Microsoft plans mobile-game store, vying with Apple, Google

By Cecilia D’Anastasio and Dina Bass, Cecilia D’Anastasio and Dina Bass, Bloomberg News
Published: May 10, 2024, 7:35am

Microsoft Corp. will launch its own online store for mobile-game consumables in July, creating an alternative to Apple Inc. and Google’s app stores and their fees.

The browser-based store will debut with Microsoft’s own games, offering discounts on in-game items associated with titles like Candy Crush Saga. Xbox President Sarah Bond announced the move Thursday at the Bloomberg Technology Summit. Later, Microsoft will open the store to other publishers.

Bond says the store is launching on the web, versus an app, so it’s “accessible across all devices, all countries, no matter what, independent of the policies of closed ecosystem stores.”

Microsoft saw an opportunity to create a store that “goes truly across devices — where who you are, your library, your identity, your rewards travel with you versus being locked to a single ecosystem,” Bond said. The company’s intention is to facilitate gaming across consoles, computers and mobile devices. Microsoft’s blockbuster cross-platform game Minecraft may be an early addition to the web store, Bond said.

“This web-based store is the first step in our journey to building a trusted app store with its roots in gaming,” an Xbox spokesperson said in an email.

Apple and Google dominate the app stores where game developers release titles, charging an approximate 30% fee on sales. In late 2023, Microsoft gaming head Phil Spencer shared that the company is in talks with partners to launch its own Xbox app store.

The European Union’s Digital Markets Act, which went into effect this year, freed tech companies to start their own direct-to-consumer web stores and avoid Apple and Google’s fees. In early May, some TikTok users reported seeing links to a TikTok web store, where they could purchase TikTok coins at a discount.

Microsoft lagged behind game industry competitors in entering the $90 billion mobile gaming market. Now, the company’s Xbox unit is poised to make a big splash after its $69 billion takeover of Activision Blizzard, owner of the Candy Crush and Call of Duty. Candy Crush has been downloaded 5 billion times since its 2012 debut and generated $20 billion in revenue.

Tech giants have been battling over the future of digital storefronts for mobile games since 2020, when Fortnite maker Epic Games Inc. launched its Project Liberty campaign.

Epic announced users would get a 20% discount buying Fortnite currency on its own website. In response, Apple and Google deleted Fortnite from their app stores. Epic filed lawsuits against both tech giants, alleging illegal monopolistic control over their mobile phone ecosystems.

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