Gaming is where the money is at, and so it's no surprise that Microsoft is looking to make a gigantic play in the gaming sector with Project xCloud, an upcoming streaming service that allows people to play games anywhere on any device. The challenge for mobile, of course, is the control scheme. Apparently Microsoft is working to resolve that aspect as well.
Papers penned by Microsoft Research have surfaced and they outline some prototype controllers for touchscreen devices, both tablets and smartphones. Virtual controls on touchscreens are poor substitutes for physical controllers, and so that is what Microsoft is hoping to address.
"As smartphones and tablets have become pervasive, so has mobile gaming. Not surprisingly, popular games for these platforms are focused on touchscreen-based interaction. However, many types of game are less well-suited to mobile devices. Despite systems like AdaptControl which can adapt to the 'drift' typically occurring when using virtual on-screen controls, touchbased emulations of traditional gaming controls like Dpads, buttons & joysticks are often unsatisfactory," Microsoft Research says.
Source: Windows Central via Microsoft Research
The paper goes on to give kudos to mobile devices like Sony's PlayStation Portable and Nintendo's DS and Switch consoles. All three are dedicated mobile gaming platforms with physical controls. The Switch in particular "is testament to the value of mobile gaming with physical controls," Microsoft Research says.
Microsoft Research also pointed to cheaper products that allow users to clip a smartphone into a handheld controller, such as the GameVice, but said the "fixed form of these accessories means they are bulky and inflexible."
The paper brings up some past controllers that Microsoft 3D printed. They sort of resemble a modified Xbox One controller that's been cut in half, and that attach to both sides of a phone or tablet. Whether they will ultimately materialize as actual products remains to be seen, but with Project xCloud afoot, it makes sense that Microsoft would focus some of its efforts on dedicated controllers.