Microsoft is hard at work on its next big invention: Project xCloud. It’s a newly-announced streaming service that will bring Xbox titles to various platforms, such as mobile devices. In fact, mobile devices have been the primary focus of Microsoft’s pitch for xCloud. Thus, it’s not really surprising that the company has been working on controller add-ons to make these games more comfortable to play on mobile devices. What is surprising is how similar the concepts look to that of the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con.
Windows Central came across some research material for the xCloud mobile controller concepts, and Microsoft even explicitly mentioned the Switch (as well as the DS and PSP) when discussing how other mobile devices have tried to solve the problem of adapting games to a mobile form factor.
According to the report, Microsoft has been performing research on these concepts all the way since 2014. That gives insight as to how long the Project xCloud service itself has been building up behind the scenes.
The Switch didn’t exactly pioneer the concept of detachable controllers, but it’s hard not to compare Microsoft’s concepts to the Joy-Con due to how established the Switch has become at this point. The thing is, the Switch itself was designed with detachable controllers in mind. On the other hand, most tablets and smartphones were not made to accommodate such a design, which is why the concepts shown above do look rather odd with the devices being awkwardly cradled by the controllers.
Microsoft’s arguably best option is to go with that it showed off in the Project xCloud announcement trailer, where Forza Horizon 4 was being played on a phone with a normal Xbox One Controller that was attached to it via phone mount. This sort of peripheral is already quite commonplace, especially due to the rise of drones which feature similar controller-device mounts for both phones and tablets. That way, even devices with very thin bezels are still compatible (the detachable concepts would be especially hard to manage on devices like this).
Elsewhere in the tech world, there are even more comparisons to Switch. Recently, the new Huawei Mate 20 gaming smartphone was directly put up against the system by Huawei itself, and the Xiaomi-backed Black Shark Helo gaming smartphone has a controller peripheral that definitely looks a lot like the Joy-Con design we’ve come to know and love.