Microsoft’s split-style controller was recently revealed in a YouTube video. It allows a user to play video games using a controller attached to smartphone/tablet devices instead of using the touch screen. (Image Credit: Microsoft Research)
A few years ago, Microsoft Research developed an Xbox style controller that could be attached to a wide range of mobile and tablet devices, providing more tactile controls. Last year, a Microsoft patent filing was discovered, revealing details of the prototype. Now, Microsoft has uploaded a video of the prototype controller on YouTube. Even though the split-style controller wasn’t mass-produced, other companies have created a similar line of products, including the Razer Junglecat and Razer Kishi.
The video seems to be pretty old and states that the controller was under development sometime between 2012 and 2014, but the video was uploaded in 2018. In the demonstration video, we can see how the controller can easily be attached to a tablet with a Bluetooth connection. The modular palm grips can be switched out for different ones, depending on hand sizes. Just like the Nintendo Switch, each concept contains its own battery.
Microsoft also describes the controller as a versatile alternative for more tactile mobile gaming. They noted that there’s anecdotal evidence that suggests gamers prefer to use tactile controls rather than a touch screen when playing games on a mobile device. Developers can take advantage of APIs that Microsoft is currently developing, which will allow them to create more playable games on mobile devices. It will include scaling options for interfaces and on-screen controls for touch. However, it’s not yet known if any other companies besides Microsoft’s first-party are developing something similar.
The majority of today’s smartphones and tablets wouldn’t be able to support the split-style/Bluetooth controller. This is due to the lack of bezels, which serve as a holder for the controller to attach to, which would cause the controller to cover up a large portion of the screen. More companies have been opting for the production of bezel-less devices, which limits the usability of the controller on various devices. For instance, Razer has been producing external shells for the Junglecat controller, but that creates more problems since it will need to fit on thousands of various devices with different shapes and sizes.
Microsoft could also re-purpose the controller so that it can be used as a gaming platform similar to the Nintendo Switch that doesn’t rely on xCloud for online game streaming. In the meantime, Microsoft may look towards making xCloud a more suitable experience on mobile devices by exploring a variety of products, APIs and other workarounds.
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