In order to compete with the likes of Google Stadia, Microsoft announced Project xCloud earlier this year. It’s a game streaming service that’s designed to allow users to stream Xbox games to your console, PC, or mobile devices, and all existing Xbox games are compatible. Microsoft may even be working on a super cheap console in order to play Project xCloud games. While that’s all well and good, playing Xbox games on mobile will certainly not be comfortable. A research paper spotted by WindowsCentral shows that Microsoft has prototyped Xbox controllers designed for smartphones.
The research paper documents and praises touchscreen devices like the Nintendo DS and Switch that have successfully handled gaming. It also talks about how while mobile gaming has taken off, many games aren’t actually suited to be played on a touch screen. Prototypes by Microsoft for controllers that aim to tackle this problem were built out of foam and then 3D printed based on conceptual renders.
As smartphones and tablets have become pervasive, so has mobile gaming. Not surprisingly, popular games for these platforms are focused on touchscreen-based interaction. However, many types of game are less well-suited to mobile devices. Despite systems like AdaptControl which can adapt to the ‘drift’ typically occurring when using virtual on-screen controls, touchbased emulations of traditional gaming controls like Dpads, buttons & joysticks are often unsatisfactory.
Mobile gaming devices like the Sony PlayStation Portable and Nintendo’s DS and Switch are dedicated mobile gaming platforms which overcome these limitations via physical controls. The success of the Switch is testament to the value of mobile gaming with physical controls. A number of cheaper products allow a smartphone to be clipped into or onto a modified handheld gaming controller; these include the ION iCade mobile, the GameCase, the GameVice and products from Moga. However, the fixed form of these accessories means they are bulky and inflexible.
While the bulk of the work appears to have been conducted in 2014, the mention of the Nintendo Switch suggests that the paper has been worked on recently as well. With Project xCloud on the horizon too, there has never been a better time for the company to want to work on something like this. Recently filed patents (discovered by WindowsLatest) corroborate these findings.
While this controller may be far from being a completed product, it’s interesting that it has spent so long in the pipeline without getting thrown out. Avoiding touch-based input with Project xCloud is in everyone’s best interest, which is why Microsoft may look to launch this controller sooner rather than later once the company’s streaming service reaches the market sometime in October.
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