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Microsoft will launch the Xbox mobile store with Candy Crush and Minecraft in July

Mobile gamers will soon have a new place where they can download some of the greatest games that can be played on smartphones.

Microsoft will launch an Xbox mobile game store in July, revealed Sarah Bond, Microsoft’s president of Xbox.

It will initially be available exclusively online, with Microsoft games and with discounts on in-game items in Candy Crush Saga and Minecraft, according to Bloomberg. Bond said Microsoft’s external partners will come to the store later.

The launch means Microsoft is shaking up the mobile gaming market by offering the public a new place to access hit games, away from the cavernous mobile app stores of Apple and Google.

Speaking of in-game purchase deals, Microsoft’s move could trigger price wars between the three tech giants or more attractive game packages for gamers. The biggest mobile games are free to download, but there is an additional fee for cosmetic items and extra lives.

Mobile games accounted for almost half of all gaming revenues in 2023, reaching $92.6 billion (£77 billion). According to a 2023 YouGov survey, Brits spend roughly the same amount of time each week playing mobile games as they do playing console games.

How will this work?

Microsoft is also showcasing its unique ability to enable mobile gamers to play on multiple platforms. Theoretically, this would allow you to start a game on your iPhone and continue playing on Xbox or the web.

Microsoft is considering a store that “really spans across devices – where you are, your library, your identity, your rewards travel with you rather than being locked into one ecosystem,” Bond said.

With Game Pass, the company already runs a game subscription service for consoles and PCs that does just that. It also has an online Microsoft store that offers all its products under one roof, from office software to tablets and Xbox digital games.

What mobile games does Microsoft have?

Microsoft doesn’t directly create a large number of mobile games itself, but it has become a major player in the mobile gaming industry thanks to its major 2023 acquisition of Activision Blizzard, owner of Candy Crush maker King.

Microsoft’s mobile offering currently includes Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty, Diablo Immortal and Warcraft Rumble mobile games, as well as the King’s Candy Crush, Bubble Witch Saga, Farm Heroes Saga and Pet Rescue Saga series.

Bond said mobile gaming was a key factor in Microsoft’s deal with Activision Blizzard.

Meanwhile, Minecraft is not just a hit on mobile phones, it is the greatest video game of all time.

Will Microsoft launch the Xbox mobile app store?

In a nod to Apple and Google’s stringent app store guidelines, Microsoft Bond said that by launching an app on the Internet, it could reach a wider group of users than through “closed ecosystem” stores.

Given that most people download games from app stores, Microsoft plans to eventually offer its own game store.

Apple and Google currently have a monopoly on app distribution through the iOS and Android mobile operating systems and their respective app stores. Companies maintain tight control over in-app purchases, cutting 30% of such transactions.

New regulations in the European Union now require Apple to enable alternative app stores on iPhones and iPads. Meanwhile, Google’s Android has become more open to third-party app stores, with users able to download third-party apps or “load” them as files directly from websites.

Microsoft is watching the rise of mobile gaming during a difficult time for Xbox and the broader video game industry. Following the January acquisition of Activision Blizzard, the company laid off 1,900 employees in its gaming division. Moreover, it recently closed down two game studios, which sparked a backlash from gamers and developers online.