Microsoft Research prototypes modular mobile Xbox controller on video

Mobile Controller Concept Xbox
Mobile Controller Concept Xbox (Image credit: Microsoft Research)

A while ago, we covered some patents from Microsoft Research that prototyped how a split-style Xbox controller could clip onto a variety of devices to provide more tactile controls. While the controller never made it to production (that we're aware of ...), some other companies have developed similar products, such as the Razer Junglecat (opens in new tab) and Razer Kishi.

While we've seen some patent images previously, Microsoft has now uploaded an old demonstration video to its Microsoft Research YouTube archive. This does not mean the prototypes are coming to production, but it's a cool concept that shows that Microsoft is at least exploring ways to elevate Xbox gaming on mobile devices.

The research video is from all the way back in 2018, and Microsoft describes it as a versatile option for more tactile mobile gaming, noting that there's anecdotal evidence that gamers prefer tactile controls over touch in some scenarios.

Source: Microsoft Research (Image credit: Source: Microsoft Research)

I've written previously about how touch isn't suitable for XCloud in the short term, but Microsoft is developing APIs that developers can leverage to make games on mobile devices more playable, with special scaling options for interfaces and unique on-screen controls for touch. Whether anyone outside of Microsoft's first-party actually does that is anyone's guess, though, making Xbox Bluetooth controllers the likely go-to option for the foreseeable.

The downside of this particular controller in 2020 is that bezels are now... almost non-existent. This controller hinges on the idea that you'd be able to clip it onto a phone or a tablet, using the bezels as a holder. More and more companies are pushing towards bezel-less devices though, putting a limitation on how viable this product would end up being. Razer has been making external shells for its Junglecat controller, for example, but that runs the problem of having to solve how it will fit on the thousands of different device shapes and sizes out there.

I've argued before that Microsoft should explore creating a dedicated device instead, like the Nintendo Switch (opens in new tab), to offset some of these ergonomic problems for Project xCloud mobile game streaming. The truth is, there won't be any single "one-size-fits-all" solution. Microsoft will probably explore a range of products, APIs, and other workarounds to make xCloud a better experience on phones and smaller screens. Time will tell.

Related: Best Xbox One controller phone mounts

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Jez Corden
Managing Editor

Jez Corden is the Managing Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

  • The way I see it since this isn't going to be your permanent, main device for gaming but merely a temporary, portable one you'll probably want to sacrifice a little bit on ergonomics in favor to portability - While I do not own one I'd like to think that what the Switch has does is probably a better solution in terms of a slim and compact execution ( without those detachable palm rests ) with the only required point of improvement being the always complained drift-prone analog sticks - Replace them with Xbox One tech and you'll be golden.
    Bonus points for still incorporating Elite Controller Paddles ( I for one can't game without them anymore... )
  • I know phones are moving towards bezel-less designs, but this could work on the newer Samsung S-line phones from the last few years which have a wider than 16:9 aspect ratio. I use xCloud on my S10+ and have considerable dead space either side of the image. Not sure how many other phones adopt a similar aspect ratio, but maybe this concept has legs
  • Not to mention that even on a device with no bezel this still covers up way less of the screen that your thumbs would.