Microsoft's Project xCloud cloud gaming platform is now available in preview, allowing users to access Xbox games on their smartphones. However, the concept still faces some unique challenges, among them how to handle controls. Microsoft seems to be interested in a split modular controller system to solve the problem.
Project xCloud allows users on smartphones to access and play Xbox One titles. Microsoft handles the computational load and users play through the cloud. However, many of those users won't be carrying around an Xbox One controller or another compatible controller around with them.
Last November, we discussed a Microsoft Patent for a split controller system. Like the Nintendo Switch, the controller would split and be placed either side of a smartphone. Importantly, it would be much more portable than a traditional gamepad.
Microsoft has now updated its Microsoft Research YouTube page that shows a demo of the controller system. It is worth noting the demo appears to be old (2018) and Microsoft has offered nothing official about ever launching the peripheral.
What's clear is Project xCloud and its success could depend on finding a controlling system that is usable on the move. It is worth noting Microsoft introduced touch screen support earlier this month.
However, touch support only goes a little way to solving the control problem. Touch may be fine for Candy Crush, but it's less than ideal when trying to replicate the full controls of a console game.
Project xCloud users tapping into the service at home can simply connect a Wireless Xbox One controller and play. That said, it seems the whole point of xCloud is for users to access it on the move when away from their Xbox One consoles. Toting around a gamepad does not make sense.
Whether Microsoft moves ahead and launches its own controller system or third parties pick up the slack with their offerings remains to be seen.