back to article Microsoft mulls touchscreen controller for next-gen Xbox

Microsoft appears set to follow Nintendo and equip its next-gen games console with a touchscreen-equipped controller, along the lines of the one that will ship with the Wii U. Microsoft's forthcoming console "will be a matte black media hub with a mission to bring games to life in your living room with augmented reality, …


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  1. djswivel
    Thumb Down

    Am I the only one...

    Who want a console to play games on?

    I don't want a stupid video screen controller, I don't want a Freeview DVR (as that'll be the best it can be without paying for sky/virgin subs as well) and I don't want more kinect features.

    Kinect is bad enough when streaming videos now, it thinks everytime I move my fork from plate to mouth that my hand wants to pause the video...

    1. Greg J Preece

      Amen! Shinier kit and fancier controllers do not make for better games. Even with the Wii turning into a shitpile of shovelware and the Kinect/Move largely falling flat on their arse for anything other than "party" (read: crap) games and 8-year-olds, console manufacturers have realised how much money they can make off all that peripheral goodness.

      I just don't get it. Back on the PS2 it was nigh-on impossible to persuade people to buy a Guncon2, but people will queue for midnight releases for a bloody Kinect.

      One thing that I think is weirdly true - the manufacturers are in danger of creating a generation of consoles that gamers don't want to play. And once the magpies get over their latest fad, there could be some interesting fallout.

  2. Dayjo
    Paris Hilton

    Looks familiar....

  3. squilookle

    I'm interested in the DVR functionality, especially if it resembles Windows Media Center, as that is very good.

    Not too sure about these controllers though. I suppose we'll see how they turn out, if they appear at all. If they're optional, and don't lead to gimmicks getting put in games that use it for the sake of using it, even better.

  4. Amonymous Ocward

    Crap for gaming, but maybe helpful for other stuff.

    Hm. Accuracy with controllers is an issue for the games which earn big moneys (FPS). A tablet based controller isn't going to help much. It would make a rather nice remote control for the media features though.

    Then again, we can do that from our phones. Get it so it will control the volume on the telly and the input selection, and we're all set.

  5. Frosty840

    Anyone else ever thrown a controller in frustration?

    I mean, I've only thrown mine into the couch, but I know a fair few people who regard their controllers as disposable things to be thrown at the wall when the situation warrants.

    That's a bit of a big ask for something that's got to contain at least mobile phone's worth of hardware...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes, I have thrown in frustration...

      ...more than one controller. On the couch too.

      But my point is, if the controllers now have screen, some sort or wireless connectivity, and of course buttons, why not let us use any phone already? Just download a software, and play on your phone. Doesn't need to be THE IPhone, but any phone with buttons and touchscreen all around would do. I can think of more than a few phones that would be capable of this. And no worry about batteries running out mid game either.

      And I can't remember how many times I had to ditch the controller to answer the phone, so an auto-pause function would be handy. If you go wi-fi instead of bluetooth, range becomes no problem too. I can't see why not.

      If the game has a messaging system inside it, your real message could popup in-game in return. I heard about at least one vintage game that would do that.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge


        The big problem is that not every Android phone has the same resolution, so user-interface concerns tend to crop up. It's a challenge with Android programs that can appear in a variety of resolutions (especially those who want to be compatible with Honeycomb or ICS, which allow for high resolutions). Furthermore, a true phone tends to be a bit beefier than a glorified remote and thus more costly. Third, if Microsoft wanted to tie the phone/tablet into the future system, I think they would give Win8 and WinPhone priority.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Sony got a slating for launching at this price....

    Personally, I would rather have a PS3 and a Vita (which can both be had for this price), as the Vita can be used as a PS3 controller with a display (meaning it does exactly what this does), when it's in the home, but it a powerhouse portable console when it's away from the home too.

    As usual, Microsoft are in "me too" mode.

  7. JDX Gold badge

    Maybe I'm too old and will be proved wrong, but surely a touch-screen lacks massively compared to twin thumb-sticks?

    I like my console being a media hub but I dislike the current fad that everything has to use touch-screen (and now motion-sensing) for UI. The PS3 controller in particular is a wonderful piece of design, as evidenced by the fact it barely changed in almost 20 years.

    1. Greg J Preece

      The cockles of my heart were warmed the other day when I finally got hold of Super Stardust Delta on the Vita and found that there is an entire play mode dedicated to turning all that motion control/touchscreen bullshit off, and playing properly. Kick ass!

    2. DrXym Silver badge

      Thumbsticks are necessary in a console

      Touch screens are fine for casual games but they suck for certain genres such as FPS games. Look at the slating that GTA 3 got when it was ported to the iPad. It wasn't that the port was bad but the fact that it was very difficult to play without thumbsticks. Virtual thumbsticks are no substitute since it's to easy for fingers to stick to the glass.

      So I'm not surprised that the sticks stayed on the Vita. Even the 3DS has one stick and possibly the 3DS lite might turn up with 2 when it finally appears. Whether the Vita sells is another matter, but it won't be for lack of thought that went into its design.

      1. stranger

        Re: Thumbsticks are necessary in a console

        "Even the 3DS has one stick and possibly the 3DS lite might turn up with 2 when it finally appears."

        Nintendo already realize the mistake of having a single thumb stick and have released an add-on to add the 2nd thump stick plus L2 and R2 buttons to the 3DS. The add-on was released late last month, and -if I may add- it is ugly. But hopefully the 3DS lite will have have it built in.

      2. phr0g

        but then.

        Real FPS fans don't flap around with thumbsticks either.

        Mouse and WASD is the one true path Grasshopper.

    3. TimNevins
      Thumb Down

      Not quite

      The fractured D-Pad has been a bane for most of those 20 years with no diagonal option.

      Executing a diagonal press by trying to press two directional buttons simultaneously has been an exercise in frustration esp with fighing games(Tekken,SF) that use diagonal or Quarter/Half circle rolling movements (Down,Down Foward,Forward etc) to execute combos.

      The problem also plagued other games and the thumbsticks do not allow D-Pad functionality in the same way(i.e. Double tap forward or backward).

      Still not fixed :(

  8. DrXym Silver badge

    Great way to make money

    Shove a screen into the controller and then you can rape people on the cost of additional peripherals. I'm quite certain that is Nintendo's plan with the Wii U.

  9. stranger

    whoever drew that concept art, remind him/her what the biggest complain people had about the PSP (hint, 2 thumb-sticks)

    the Wii U is going to use a dumb terminal, on the other hand the PS Vita is going to be a fully functional standalone handheld device that can be used for remote play. The Wii U controller is only useful in the proximity of the console, the PS Vita doesn't need the PS3 for its own games and can run the PS3 games remotely as long as it have a fast internet connection (both ways) or a local WiFi.

    Now I wonder, which path the Xbox would take, a standalone WindowsCE 8 based controller or a dumb terminal?

  10. Ru

    We don't need no steeenking ergonomics

    The two analogue thumbsticks thing is a pretty good interface; it fits well with a hell of a lot of different games, and it is easy to feel what position the stick is in when you're moving it even if you're not actually staring at the controller at the time.

    Touchscreen interfaces are great, *if you are looking at them whilst you use them*. When I'm playing on my console, I want to be looking at my nice 32" HDTV, not some tiddly little palm-sized LCD. If I wanted to do that, I'd get more games for my phone.

    On the other hand, having a more flexible input method may mean that more traditionally PC games (eg strategy type things) might make it onto the console without being horrendously dumbed down. That market segment has been a little neglected in recent years as devs move to more lucrative sectors like console and mobile gaming, which sucks for those of us who like the sort of games that have only worked well on PCs...

  11. Chris Harrison

    Let Controllers control

    The current XBox Controller is a great piece of kit - comfortable for long periods of time and not too heavy or too light. I really don't want 90% of games to be handicapped by a controller that is designed specifically to allow functionality for a minority of games.

    Surely Kinect and a touch screen is overkill?

    1. thesykes

      Have to disagree with the Xbox controller being "a great piece of kit". I find it way too big, heavy and bulky, with a battery pack sticking out of the bottom of it for no apparent reason.

      The PS3 controller is a far better design.

      My opinion of course.

      And no, I'm not a Xbox hater / PS3 lover... I am one of those people who have both consoles.

      As for a tocuhscreen controller... no way. I want to look at the TV when playing a game, not the controller. Stupid idea.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Rich 30

        The problem with the PS controller is the triggers are shaped wrong. They need to be concave, like the xbox, not convex. its such an odd design choice. I find it really uncomfortable. I expect its why on games like Call of Duty, they PS controller doesn't actually use the triggers for shooting?

        I personally also prefer the concave tips on the thumbsticks on xbox, rather than the convex ones on PS3. But i know lots of people who prefer it the otherway round.

        On reflection, i much prefer the xbox controller - but the battery pack: Yuk.

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Try PS2 triggers

          After PS3 aghhhhh!!!!!!!!!

          Yes I am trying to play a PS2 game, L2 R2 are horrid

      3. squilookle

        The battery pack on the xbox controller is a godsend for me.

        Long story short, I have no fingers in my right hand, so I hold the left hand side of the controller with my left hand as normal, and rest the right hand side of the controller on my leg (in between the right handle and the battery pack, stabbing at the buttons with my right hand, and pushing the entire controller forward into the top of my kneecap to make use of the right trigger (that isn't fast enough for shooting, but it's alright for ADS and the like, so I use the Lefty button setup in COD, although I prefer Skyrim type games and racers anyway).

        Like Rich 30, I prefer the shape of the thumb sticks and triggers on the XBox controller too.

        I also don't like the position of the sticks on the playstation controller, I feel I have to stretch my thumb further and that I can't react as quickly/accurately like that. The only time I would prefer a PS controller is when playing the Megadrive Ultimate Collection, as I admittedly have exactly the same problem with the XBox D Pad.

  12. alexh2o

    Xbox 720?

    My money's on it being called "Xbox HD"... or as the cool kids would say, "XBHD".

    1. Amonymous Ocward
      Thumb Up

      Not as brave as Nintendo.

      I doubt they'd do that as XBHD is so easily corrupted into XBAD.

      Though if they are trying to ape Nintendo and its Wii, let's call it the Xcrement, an increment on the last xbox of course ;o)

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Shonko Kid

        It should be called the ZBox, pronounced Zzzzzzbox as that's about how interesting it will be.

  13. Atonnis


    ...what happened to one of my controllers last night when my fiance walked into the room wearing, well let's just say *STOP THE PRESS*, I'm pretty sure that touchy-scratchable-crackable-easily broken controllers like this will be the least wanted thing to go with what is seen as one of the consoles for more 'serious' gamers.

    I recognise the need to push forward into digital hubs delivering all types of multimedia content, blah blah blah, but all you're going to do is push the real market - the gamers - away...and they'll all head towards OnLive as internet speeds get pushed up (120Mb rolling out during the next 12 months) and OnLive becomes capable of decent image-quality gaming. At the moment, it's pretty 'meh'.

  14. MJI Silver badge

    Controllers are there for a reason

    Easy to hold, easy to use. No thanks to a screen - the Dreamcast was odd with this.

    Twin thumb sticks is the console standard (like PC Mouse and WASD). Only real change is positioning, some are lop sided some are not.

    You can pick up most games on most consoles now like this.

    Due to my age I find close to distance focusing slower now, so a small controller screen would be a pain. For portables I take off glasses.

    However I do prefer motion controls for FPS.

    25-3 with 21 kill streak from a middle aged person says motion controllers can work, literally point and shoot, bye bye DS3 owners, this is using the so called joke controller, Move, no joke when you can win matches with it.

    The Wii-U controller does look rather big, but what is telling with Wii is that one son when playing Mario Karts plugs in the traditional controller, I struggle to play it, so don't bother at all. I am not bad at racing games, I beat them at Motorstorm!

    Mind you none of them have bothered with Mario Karts since we got Modnation Racers.

  15. W.O.Frobozz


    ...once again Microsoft cries "MEEEEE TOOOOHHH!!" as loud as they can. They stole Nintendo's Miis and crapped out their lame "avatars." And now they're meee-toooing the Wii-U.

  16. Charles 9 Silver badge

    It could be useful...if kept to a limited role.

    Remember that not the WiiU, not the PS3 with its PSP tie-in were first to have a separate interface on the controller itself. Think the Dreamcast and its VMU. Now, i agree that this one appears a bit overboard, but if perhaps made less prominent, a bit smaller, then it could be useful for a dynamic menu for secondary functions. For less-important things or for situations where it won't hurt to look down, then perhaps this would be preferable to complex button combinations. Sports games sort of leap to mind, enabling you to choose plays or strategies without the other players even knowing what options you have.

    So IMO, interesting concept...just don't get carried away with it.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    MS should get with the program

    Back in the 90's the hype was Internet. MS /finally/ realized that they let the boat leave without even bothering to attempt to board it so now they had to build their own boat (and obviously try to sink or damage the main boat hoping that people would hop over).

    Same story, different product and different timeline.

    To me it seems as if they're now desperately trying to apply "touch" on everything possible, without even bothering to wonder if 'touch' would actually be an enhancement.

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