Microsoft is moving full steam into mobile gaming. Earlier this month, the company introduced Project xCloud, a game streaming service that will bring Xbox gaming to mobile devices. Before the launch of Project xCloud next year, Microsoft has some hurdles to clear. One of them is how to handle controls on mobile.

At the moment, the company is known to have two solutions. The first is an attachment device to connect the Xbox One controller to a smartphone or tablet. This would allow full manual controls, albeit on a static and rigid setup.

An alternative is a “new touch input overlay”. This would afford users more mobility and pick-up-and-play controls. However, virtual controls have never been able to truly replicate the tactility of manual controls. Both current ideas can be seen in the video below.

To solve the problem, Microsoft Researchers are working on a new Xbox controller that would split to either side of the screen. Yes, this is similar to Nintendo’s Joy-Cons for the Switch. Judging Microsoft’s prototype images, the Japanese company served as a clear inspiration.

Indeed, the Switch has showed how console gaming can transfer to mobile. The difference is Nintendo is a closed shop, a successful one, but not one known for sharing. Project xCloud will be different, bringing the Xbox experience to anyone with a compatible smartphone (and presumably an Xbox Live account).

Prototype

Microsoft’s xCloud controls would connect to either side of the screen. Of course, there are plenty of third-parties already offering this kind of configuration for mobile. Microsoft may hope its idea will be able to successfully expand the stunning Xbox One controller. The prototype comes with three separate parts:

  • Two controller pieces that have triggers and bumpers on the back
  • Three different slide-in grips to make the two controller pieces look and feel like a real Xbox controller
  • A USB dock for charging the two halves of the controller

Project xCloud

The new streaming service will be underpinned by Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform. According to the company, it will be able to offer high-fidelity, no lag visuals on any platform. This will be achieved through new algorithms for managing lag. Microsoft also said its testing 5G ahead of its roll out over the next couple of years.