Prototype Xbox controllers for phones and tablets show up in research papers

Xbox controllers

Microsoft has been publicly hard at work developing its xCloud gameplay streaming service for some time now, but is working on another missing link: solving touchscreen game controls. Microsoft’s answer? Xbox controller accessories that stick onto touchscreens.

The answer comes through new Microsoft research papers obtained by Windows Central, which plainly depict prototype versions of what the firm is thinking. Generally speaking, these are controller accessories that will somehow stick onto a phone or tablet for button and joystick input wherever.

Apparently, Microsoft has been working on concepts to solve this problem since as far back as 2014, but the the debut and wild success of the Nintendo Switch has inspired the team to redouble their efforts.

A 'Switch' flips for Microsoft

“Mobile gaming devices like the Sony PlayStation Portable and Nintendo's DS and Switch are dedicated mobile gaming platforms which overcome these limitations via physical controls,” the research paper reads, according to Windows Central

“The success of the Switch is testament to the value of mobile gaming with physical controls. A number of cheaper products allow a smartphone to be clipped into or onto a modified handheld gaming controller; these include the ION iCade mobile, the GameCase, the GameVice and products from Moga. However, the fixed form of these accessories means they are bulky and inflexible.”

Aside from creating this documentation, Windows Central also reports that Microsoft built prototypes out of foam and then 3D printed them.

There’s no way of knowing how close Microsoft is to releasing proper controller accessories based on these prototypes – much less the xCloud service that’s expected to create demand for them in the first place. Public trials begin in 2019, so perhaps we’ll see the service, and these controllers, sooner rather than later.

Joe Osborne

Joe Osborne is the Senior Technology Editor at Insider Inc. His role is to leads the technology coverage team for the Business Insider Shopping team, facilitating expert reviews, comprehensive buying guides, snap deals news and more. Previously, Joe was TechRadar's US computing editor, leading reviews of everything from gaming PCs to internal components and accessories. In his spare time, Joe is a renowned Dungeons and Dragons dungeon master – and arguably the nicest man in tech.