Prototype images of a supposed controller for mobile and tablets from Microsoft have surfaced, and they’re certainly… interesting.

The images, courtesy of Windows Central, are supposedly for an Xbox-style controller which would fit either side of a mobile device, whether it’s a smartphone or tablet. The gamepad itself would split, not unlike the Nintendo Switch, and will offer physical controls for gaming on mobile.

This, of course, comes not too long after the announcement of Microsoft’s Project xCloud, its cloud streaming service that it’s working on to allow players to live-stream games to mobile devices and other internet-connected devices.

The research paper, which these prototypes come from also points towards the Switch inspiration:

“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, touch-based emulations of traditional gaming controls like Dpads, buttons & joysticks are often unsatisfactory.”

“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 success of the Switch is a testament to the value of mobile gaming with physical controls,” the paper adds.

Microsoft is Making a Controller for Mobiles and Tablets - n3rdabl3

These controllers look completely modular too, allowing players to attach different grips or remove them completely, as well as wirelessly charge the controllers via a USB-powered dock.

At first glance, they look a lot like those crappy third-party controllers you’d be handed at a friends house whos buttons would be too far apart and it’d just be really awkward to use, but the addition of changeable grips is a pretty nifty idea. It’ll be interesting if they’re also usable without being attached to a smartphone or tablet.

With these just being prototypes there’s a chance they may never see the light of day, but here’s hoping.

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