Mouse and keyboard support for Xbox has been in the cards for years at this point, and finally, Xbox head Phil Spencer announced that it's just around the corner. It'll become available for select Xbox Insiders after RS5 ships in October, and will be compatible with Warframe starting out, before expanding to other titles.
Mouse and keyboard very close to coming to Xbox console. Lots of developer options to ensure fairness and a great experience. Choice is in the hands of the developer to do multiplayer pools (controller only, kb/mouse only, any, etc.). Soon! #XboxMouse and keyboard very close to coming to Xbox console. Lots of developer options to ensure fairness and a great experience. Choice is in the hands of the developer to do multiplayer pools (controller only, kb/mouse only, any, etc.). Soon! #Xbox— Mike Ybarra (@XboxQwik) September 25, 2018September 25, 2018
Mouse and keyboard support has an odd relationship and history when it comes to consoles. For example, the PlayStation 4 already supports mouse too in some cases, Final Fantasy XIV: Realm Reborn was designed PC-first, and supports mouse inputs on Sony's console. Both the Xbox 360 and Xbox One support keyboard inputs, occasionally for games, with Final Fantasy XI being playable completely with a keyboard back on Xbox 360. It goes to show that some games simply play better with a keyboard and mouse, and finally, Microsoft is acknowledging it.
We exclusively reported Microsoft's plans to bring mouse and keyboard support to Xbox back in June 2018, and inside those documents, we got an idea about how Microsoft intends to implement the features for developers, while protecting the console experience Xbox gamers know and love.
Let's dissect what mouse and keyboard support for Xbox will, and won't look like, when it finally goes public.
An explosion of new games
The first thing to note is that Microsoft is putting mouse and keyboard support firmly in the hands of developers. Microsoft will not dictate whether a game is required to support these inputs or not, and controller-enabled games will remain the default. Our original documents from early in 2018 seemed to indicate that developers would be unable to make games exclusively for mouse and keyboard, and that controller support would remain mandatory. However, Phil Spencer's language in the announcement video seems to indicate this stance might have changed.
Indeed, in previous conversations with developers bringing PC-native games to Xbox, one of the most difficult aspects of development is reworking user interfaces and controls to be gamepad-friendly. If Microsoft allowed PC devs to port their games as is without having to include controllers, it would save them a huge amount of work and investment. Also, as noted by Spencer in the video, some games simply handle better with a mouse and keyboard. In conversations with Blizzard developers previously, they had noted to me how Heroes of the Storm, the company's colourful MOBA strategy game, simply wouldn't work with a controller. Heroes would have to be completely rebalanced, maps would have to be reworked, among other things, it would almost, effectively, be a separate game, and thus an investment risk.
If Microsoft has lifted the requirement for developers to default to controller, then games that have never found an audience in the living room could begin making their way across. This includes hugely popular simulation games like Football Manager or Planet Coaster, actions-per-minute intensive strategy games like Age of Empires II and StarCraft, or hardcore PC shooters like Counter-Strike: GO, which never truly found an audience on console.
We've also heard some credible rumors that Microsoft is working with Valve to further bridge the networking gap between Xbox and Steam's networking platforms, which would vastly decrease the risk for PC game developers to invest in bringing multiplayer titles to Xbox One (and indeed, the Microsoft Store on PC). Killer Instinct already enjoys cross-platform connectivity, and we've heard rumors of Microsoft's underrated RTS Halo Wars 2 heading to Steam for quite a long time. The issue has always been how to separate player pools by input, which Microsoft is working to solve with these features.
In this scenario, an Xbox One would effective becomes an affordable, if simple gaming PC, more accessible to the masses than a proper Windows gaming rig. New freedoms bring new risks and uncertainty, though, and the success or failure of mouse and keyboard on Xbox One will hinge on its implementation from developers.
Sea of Thieves already allows mouse and keyboard PC players to share a world with controller-using Xbox players. Mouse and keyboard inputs allow you to turn faster, without sacrificing aiming precision. If you want to turn faster using a controller, you'll have to turn up the joystick sensitivity and thus, lose precision in the process. As such, in shooters, this grants mouse players a considerable advantage, an advantage which is often abused quite prevalently even now in on Xbox.
You can use a mouse and keyboard in Xbox One shooters, using input-modifying devices like the XIM that mimic the signal from a controller, despite the fact you're using a mouse. Killcams in Call of Duty and other games expose XIM-using players, who turn extremely fast and acquire targets almost instantaneously, obliterating the competition. It's cheating, basically. Thankfully, Microsoft is addressing this problem as part of this package.
As part of the toolsets Microsoft is building to allow developers to separate multiplayer pools by input device, new tech will begin preventing players from circumventing input segregation. As long as developers leverage it, of course. Therein lies a potential pitfall with this system.
By taking a hands-off approach, Microsoft is allowing developers to decide the extent to which input mixing will take place in multiplayer titles. In non-competitive games like Sea of Thieves, it might not be a huge problem. However, being destroyed by a player who is clearly turning faster and acquiring targets far more rapidly due to their choice of input device makes for a pretty crappy experience, and Microsoft surely knows this. You'd hope other developers know it too, but even if they do separate players by input device, you end up with divided player pools, slower matchmaking times, and less-balanced matches. Linking Steam PC versions to their Xbox counterparts might help offset this player pool shrinkage to some degree, but it all depends on whether or not developers bother to set it up (if it's even planned).
Microsoft needs to make it as seamless as possible to connect different networks, if that is truly the goal, or we could end up with problems seen by Call of Duty on the Microsoft Store for PC, which has virtually zero players online at any given time.
The potential in robust mouse and keyboard support for Xbox games is quite clear, particularly as future iterations of Xbox consoles will further bridge the gap between PC and Xbox console game development. In the future, theoretically, it would be trivial for a PC game developer to bring their title to Xbox and vice versa, with all APIs and code unified across platforms. Naturally, that includes mouse and keyboard inputs, and the ability to detect input types dynamically.
Minecraft should be seen as the prototype for this future game development model. Minecraft intelligently detects whether the user is using a mouse and keyboard, a touch screen, or an Xbox controller, and updates its UI on the fly to reflect those inputs dynamically. Microsoft is applying that mentality to all games, in a world where the user will roam from device to device, whether playing titles natively or via the cloud, streamed to mobile devices from the internet.
Whether Microsoft's grand vision translates into an explosion of PC-oriented titles hitting Xbox One remains to be seen, but it's great to see these artificial barriers come down. Bring on the future, I say.
Jez Corden is a Senior 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!
A lot of people are going to keep using controllers though, it doesn't make a lot of sense to have a keyboard and mouse to play from your living room couch. But I guess this is a goo improvement that gives players a choice.
It will be particularly useful for the Xbox UWP experience, where not many apps are tailored well for controllers.
True, it will help like community or Mixer chat.
I would love it, we might get some epic RTS games. Sad as it may sound, Football manager was one of my favourites too. Games like Prison Architect, Halo Wars, etc could be great. Age of Empires?
If m&k come to fps online games it gives them an advantage over us whom use controllers. If that happens I personally will not purchase game on xbox and get it for ps4 instead.
I am pretty sure most game devs will have separate matchmaking for controller and kb/ms users.
So mouse, keyboard, and OS with apps. Isn't this just a computer? Therefore why don't we just by a regular PC that can do even more?
Alternatively, I would happily have PC apps such as Office 365 ported over to Xbox One to use the console as my "go to everything" device.
Cause then you'd have to deal with your own PC issues. It is easier for HW/OS provider and devs to replicate a console gamer's issues because everyone on the planet use the very same combination of HW, OS version, driver, background services, etc. My bro have to boot his rig twice to get to desktop.
Fans of different card maker bashing each other over which $700 card crash more... and, we all know, no HW can be released to the wild without scoring a 100 on the QA test (in a controlled environment). It's why I don't build my PC anymore. I buy Alienwares and Surface. Why not spend your troubleshooting time on something better?
That would be like asking Smartphone users to buy a PC because they can do more on it. Much can be done from a Smartphone.
That would be like asking PC users to buy a Smartphone instead, with the argument of "you can do more on the go".
And finally, the price... Buying an Xbox is much cheaper than buying a PC. Plus, all/most Xbox games are optimized for the platform they run on, where a PC software is optimized for common hardware.
I hope this will bring Civ - which is coming to the switch - and other strategy games such that I will not need a gaming PC anymore.
Is that Civ Revolution on the switch or full Civ? Revolution was a fun game, but it was built for consoles. Full Civ would be great, but harder to play.
kinda skeptical about it and it would be nice to be able to use a razer mouse and keyboard with the xbox one, playing the xbox one with a controller and being a person with disability is kinda tuff so im looking forward to it, hope this pushes thru for the xbox one if so its going to be an early christmas gift from microsoft
Hopefully we get a mouse and keyboard update for all the previous Halo games.
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