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back to article Microsoft mulls 'Xbox Surface' slate for games

Microsoft wants to release a 7in gaming tablet, with hardware planning for an "Xbox Surface" already in the works, sources claim. Details of the device - which was first mooted in June when speculation pointed towards an E3 games show reveal - indicate the use of custom ARM chippery and high-bandwidth memory geared specifically …

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I've wished for a long time that Microsoft would do a portable gaming machine.

Not sure if this is it though. They'll need to get the controls spot on.

Not sure how best to do that on a tablet. Probably a somewhat smaller version of the current XBox controller.

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Well, MS have had fun in the past making mice that change shape for portability (the Arc mouse)... maybe they'll try the same for a game controller. Slinging a full-fat mouse and PSU into a chunky laptop bag is no problem, but tablets seem to live in more svelte cases.

A few things: Interesting that MS are making this tablet dedicated to gaming, when the trend has been to use general purpose mobile devices for gaming, despite compromised control schemes.

Despite that trend, no big player seems to have really made an effect towards mobile gaming on a general purpose device; Apple already sell enough devices not to have to bother, Sony have bought PSP games to Android devices but have been limited in the hardware they support, trying to keep the party to themselves.

Curiously, you can use the PS3 gamepad on any PC with Bluetooth (with 3rd party software) or Android device (ditto). To use a wireless MS XBOX controller on a PC requires an extra hardware dongle from MS.

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Meh

Surface to Games Slate?

Remove keyboard.

How hard can it be?

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Anonymous Coward

Purpose?

Casual gamers don't need a dedicated device. Their general purpose tablet will work just fine.

Serious gamers use a console with a controller.

Really serious gamers use a grunty PC with expensive graphics card, keyboard and mouse.

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Re: Purpose?

Really REALLY serious gamers sit opposite their opponent across a wooden chess board.

It is possible to be a casual gamer who fancies a quick bout of Tekken or MicroMachines. We did have more than twenty years of joysticks and gamepads being nearly the only control option for action games.

Though your definition of 'casual gamer' seems to be (not unreasonably) 'someone who hasn't bought specialist hardware', the term was first used to describe people playing on the Nintendo Wi.

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Re: Purpose?

Depends what the difference is between "general purpose" and this device. Whilst this may be more locked down and limited than a Surface RT or especially full blown Windows 8 tablet, remember that most tablets today aren't general purpose computers anyway. Now yes, if this is dumbed down so that it can only do games, that would seem rather odd. But the article says "messaging and other basic tablet functions would probably be supported too" - if this still has things like Internet and media playing, as well as a speciality in games, then that's all the common tablet functionality covered anyway.

It's a bit like saying there's no point in a Kindle Fire, because people can already read books on their "general purpose" tablets. But that doesn't stop it being a good idea for Amazon to bring out a tablet, which actually as the same features as most "general purpose" tablets anyway, bringing the advantages of better support for Amazon e-books and other content, as well as the "Kindle" brand name. MS doing the same for X Box and games seems an obvious move.

Or, saying there's no point in an ipad, as people can already do apps and play videos on their "general purpose" tablets etc. Just because there are pre-existing devices, doesn't make it not worthwhile to join the game.

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Re: Purpose?

> [ Internet, Media, Messaging] then that's all the common tablet functionality covered anyway.

Fair point, well made.

However you mention the existing 'tablet functionality'... software aside, a tablet plus optional keyboard is effectively a laptop. And on the software side, MS is hoping many applications will be written for RT since it works on full fat Win 8 as well.

Mine was just a nagging thought- will they offer two tablet at a similar price - one with a gaming bias, one the RT with Office variant, or do they charge more for a version that does everything a vanilla RT model does plus games (same tablet, beefed-up graphics)? Basically, MS are already confusing people with 3 versions of of Windows 8 - phones, RT, full fat... and to offer a 3rd flavour of tablet isn't going to help: "I bought this for at Christmas for little Johnny to play Halo, what do you mean he can't do his homework on it?" etc.

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Anonymous Coward

Control

If the standard Xbox controller could be used with this it has the potential to be fine. If we're being asked to use on-screen control, forget it.

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Re: Control

Agreed. This problem has been the bane of hardcore games phones for years. Even a system with a dedicated touchscreen - the Nintendo DS - doesn't use it beyond a couple of quick time events and menu navigation because it doesn't allow for fast responses or multiple simultaneous inputs. Even if a touchscreen could register four finger presses at once, you wouldn't be able to play because your hand would be over the screen.

A gaming system must have dedicated (and ergonomic) gaming controls.

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Re: Control

>Agreed. This problem has been the bane of hardcore games phones for years

Hehe, I used to have a little plastic joystick which clipped over the keypad of Nokia phones (mine was a 3210i, but it came with a selection of panels to fit various positions of Nokia's 'double triangle' indentations) for the purposes of playing Snake.

(I wasn't that massive a Snake fan, its just that it was just £2.99 and I was feeling rich that day)

That said, I've been thinking of a multi-touch version of Cannon Fodder or Syndicate for a week or two now- though your point about 'not being able to see the screen' remains valid. We can all think of plenty of games that can work well on a touch-screen (Sim City, Sam and Max Hit The Road, Monkey Island, Command and Conquer, The Incredible Machine) - shit, I suddenly feel old- but I don't think they satisfy your definition of 'hardcore'. ( :

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Re: Control

Hell, I'd be happy with any of those on a fondleslab! =D

It's more things like 3D platformers such as Tomb Raider or Legacy of Kain - games which require very precisely timed inputs, often with multiple button presses that I think would be extremely difficult to put on a slab.

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Might piss off some companies

Unless Microsoft almost gives away WinRT for 7" tablets, there will not be any competition with the 7" android tablets - the OS costs too much at that price point. If Microsoft makes a 7" tablet, they could compete with the 7" android tablets, but would piss off the other hardware manufacturers.

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Coffee/keyboard

Xbox games on PC

What I want is to play Xbox games on my Windows 8 PC. I've refused to buy a console because I built and have always maintained a powerful desktop PC to play games. It makes no sense to me to buy an Xbox which contains the same elements (actually less) than a PC. If Microsoft would make a PCIe adapter which contains any necessary chips to be able to put Xbox discs in my PC and play them, I'd do that for sure. Of course, it should have a setup software to allow me to set it to 1080p and 60 or 120 FPS, in games which are compatible with an increased framerate and 3D. MS is already supposedly making a PC version of the Kinect, and I heard it was better. I have an Xbox controller already. Would like to play Xbox exclusives like Forza and Halo for example. I'm already bored of the idea and gave up, but I would again be interested if it was possible.

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Re: Xbox games on PC

> If Microsoft would make a PCIe adapter which contains any necessary chips to be able to put Xbox discs in my PC and play them

Haha, like the Amstrad Mega PC, then? PC and Megadrive in one!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amstrad_Mega_PC

3DO is another example of the same concept:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3DO_Blaster ... An add on card for your PC to play games for 3DO consoles.

That said, some better integration would be nice. No reason why a PC shouldn't run the level-editor for an XBOX-exclusive title such as Halo, for instance. MS already have some integration between the Windows Live games and the XBOX Live service (messaging, for example).

> MS is already supposedly making a PC version of the Kinnect, and I heard it was better

They do. It isn't better, but has been retuned for smaller distances so works better with hands than the entire body. It is more expensive, since it isn't being subsidised by software (games) sales, but is essentially the same hardware. I'm still waiting for productivity software (I'm a CAD user) to catch up with it, though a few people have made some proof-of-concept demonstration software. I would be interested to see if someone could use it to translate deaf-signing into written text.

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Re: fingers on a slab are not good for gaming

>Surface is attempting to barge into a crowded market

Like the original XBOX, then... Up against two big established players, Sony and Nintendo, (not including gaming PCs).

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Re: fingers on a slab are not good for gaming

I see it's the standard Apple fan definitions of success vs fail:

* Apple sell a few million a quarter (all they managed in the early years of the iphone), or get 5-10% of the phone market and it's hailed as an amazing runaway success.

* MS sell a few million a quarter (as with WP) or get 5-10% of the mp3 market (Zune), and it's a "FAIL".

If there is future growth (as projected), then the market is far from crowded - most people still don't have tablets. And if there isn't future growth, well MS have nothing to worry about that competition anyway.

Did you moan when Apple attempted to barge onto the crowded phone market late, because everyone was buying Samsung and Nokia (which most people still are, incidentally)? Or maybe you were one of the people predicting the immensely successful X Box would fail.

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outlook for hardware partners

Grim

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The only useful scenario

Is that its a portable PC to take around to your mates and link up to his TV.

Touch is rubbish for nearly all games.

But add proper controllers and just use the thing as a portable PC and you might have something which works.

Are they trying to head off the (not yet in existence) challenge from Valve hardware?

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