Portable Gaming and the Probable Death of Buttons

I had wrote a draft about the Xbox Surface and how it connects to the Ultra Mobile PC platform Microsoft introduced a decade ago; and how all this talk proved Microsoft was ahead of the curve in terms of where computing was going…….But I’m not.

Instead I want to look at the Xbox Surface from another angle.

What would be the reaction if it came out and resembled an iPad mini more than a SONY PlayStation Vita? While many hardcore gamers and tech gadget sites are salivating at the thought of an Xbox portable with a D pad and analog sticks; you have to ask would a wider audience support it.

Now for those that don’t know, the Xbox Surface is a rumored 7 inch tablet that was first leaked right before the launch of the Microsoft Surface. It’s existence has been confirmed by the Verge, ZD Net, and others. The Xbox Surface is supposed to launch with the next version of the Xbox console which is expected to launch next year. 

The Xbox Surface will be entering the market at an interesting time for portable gaming devices. While Nintendo and SONY both offer portable gaming systems with solid sales; they are being beat by the iPod Touch and tablets. The rise in smaller, 7 inch tablets and the growth of mobile gaming will further erode the handheld market.  

From the small amount of information that has been written, the Xbox Surface looks to be positioned as more mass market/mainstream than Nintendo’s DS or SONY ‘s PS Vita.  I think that Microsoft is looking at this device as a mobile play and not purely for gaming.

I think the focus will be about the Xbox as an entertainment brand with a focus on the Xbox’s other services (Music and Video) and third party applications. The Xbox Surface will be a lot like the Kindle Fire tablets;  a portal to Microsoft services. As opposed to the Surface tablets (RT and Pro), the smaller tablet will put much less emphasis on the desktop if it shows up at all. In fact I am betting that its interface will resemble the Xbox dashboard.

I think the bigger factor in what’ll influence the Xbox Surface is mobile.  

I think the gaming community and writers forget that to many people handhelds have always been considered a casual gaming device. PSPs DSes, and even Game Boys before them were usually things parents handed off to their kids. Today’s handhelds are in many ways just as complex as their console brethren. Their casual gaming role has been replaced by smartphones and tablets. Where once you got a DS, today parents buy iPod Touches so kids will leave their phones alone. The growing mobile gaming market is outpacing traditional portable gaming even as portables add mobile features. The fact that Apple can claim the iPod Touch as the number one portable gaming system and be believed will be more of a factor in the Xbox Surface’s design than SONY’s Vita.

So don’t be surprised if at this coming  E3, Microsoft announces the Xbox Surface  and its missing something.


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