In context: Like the mullet rearing its ugly head in recent years, the Surface Duo from Microsoft, along with similar products like the Samsung’s Galaxy Fold are bringing flip phones back into modernity. Now though, instead of a bedazzled, hot pink Motorola Razr, we are getting some sleek devices with the portability of a cell phone and functionality of a tablet computer.
You’ll now be able to use Xbox Cloud Gaming to play a selection of console games on the Surface Duo using touchscreen controls. Using the top screen to display the game and the bottom as a controller layout, this setup harkens back to older handheld gaming devices, particularly the Nintendo DS and its successors, which litter the top of sales charts for handheld devices.
There are some key distinctions to be made between the Surface Duo and the handhelds of yesteryear. While traditional handhelds have everything required to play applicable games built in, xCloud on the Surface Duo does require constant and stable access to the internet.
Microsoft has stated that you should be able to play over a 4G or 5G mobile network though requiring constant connectivity is antithetical to the idea of mobile gaming. It’s not all bad though, the same requirement of needing constant access to xCloud allows the Surface Duo to play games that would normally be totally inaccessible with the available computing power of the mobile device.
The kid approves of this new #XboxGamesPassUltimate feature on #SurfaceDuo – quite fascinating to see them just start to play as if it was the most intuitive thing ever. Also yes I picked the game 😁 pic.twitter.com/dOKRx9NN17
— Carolina Milanesi (@caro_milanesi) May 24, 2021
At the time of publication there are just over 50 games with touch controls added for mobile play, with more to come.
There’s a surprisingly diverse batch of games from the massively popular Gears of War 5, all the way to the little indie gem Slay the Spire. Microsoft has said that touch controls is the most requested feature from Game Pass users. They’ve also released a toolkit to allow developers to expedite the process of getting their games on as many platforms as possible.
A similar service to xCloud, Google Stadia beat Microsoft to market, but was a resounding flop. While sales numbers haven’t been publicly released by Google, you can find rudimentary estimates at around 2 million users.
Meanwhile, Microsoft’s gaming subscription which includes xCloud as one of its features (on the Game Pass Ultimate plan) dwarfs that number with over 23 million subscribers, which has been an enormous success for Redmond’s software giant.