For a while now we've been hearing rumors of Microsoft xCloud, an Xbox streaming platform that would launch with a super-low price, and a newly published patent has just given us a better idea of what to expect. Specifically, xCloud may have a particular focus on smartphones.
The patent, unearthed by Windowslatest, is for two controllers that would attach to either side of a smartphone, letting you use the handset for gaming without using touch controls.
Well, technically the patent is for the device that you'd use to charge these controllers, but it gives us a close look at the gadget as a whole.
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The controllers use spring clips to attach to either side of the smartphone, and have buttons that are very similar to what you'd see on an Xbox One controller. When attached to a smartphone, the resulting device looks rather similar to a Nintendo Switch in portable mode, and it's likely Nintendo's console was a key inspiration for Microsoft.
Since touchscreen controls can often be rather fiddly on smartphones, particularly for action games like Fortnite or PUBG Mobile that require lightning-fast reflexes, many users find gaming peripherals useful, and it makes sense that a company with a big gaming branch like Microsoft is looking at them.
However, with initial testing for xCloud getting ever closer, it makes us wonder if the patents could be part of Microsoft's plan to take on Google Stadia.
An xCloud on the horizon
One of the draws of games streaming services like Microsoft xCloud and Google Stadia is that you'll be able to stream games to your smartphones and tablets, but we've heard that Google Stadia will only work with four phones at launch – and they're all Pixels.
That means, for now, Google Stadia won't be great for mobile gamers, so that's an open market for the taking that Microsoft could well be eyeing up.
The patent suggests Microsoft is doing just that, and putting smartphones (and perhaps tablets) alongside computers and TVs as screens to play games on.
We don't know for sure just yet, but we're hoping to get hands-on with both Stadia and xCloud by the end of the year, so stay tuned to TechRadar to see which is best for smartphone gaming, and gaming in general.
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Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.
He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist. He also currently works in film as a screenwriter, director and producer.