Nintendo changed how people think about video game controllers yet again with their detachable Switch Joy-Cons, but no idea stays unique forever. According to a patent application unearthed by the folks at Windows Latest, it seems Microsoft may be working on some Joy-Con-style controllers of their own. It was rumored Microsoft was working on something of this nature as early as last year, but this is a new wrinkle.
Microsoft’s patent for a “charging device for removable input modules” was filed back in 2017, but wasn’t published by the US Patent and Trademark Office until today. You can check out diagrams of Microsoft’s detachable controllers, which are designed to work with cellphones and tablets below (click on images for full resolution).
Yup, look pretty familiar to me! Of course, various detachable controllers existed before the Switch, but the fact that Microsoft patented this idea the same year Nintendo’s console game out certainly seems telling. Here’s how Microsoft describes the two diagrams in their patent application:
FIG 1 shows schematic diagrams of a system which comprises two removable input modules, which can be temporarily attached to a touchscreen device [in order to] provide input controls.
FIG 2 shows schematic diagrams of a charging device for one of more removable input modules, with and without the modules in place.
Microsoft will be launching their xCloud game streaming service later this year, so it makes sense that the company is looking into some solution for the age-old problem of lousy touchscreen controls. Google is releasing a more traditional controller for their Stadia streaming platform, so going the detachable route with their controllers might be a good way for Microsoft to differentiate themselves from their main competition. Microsoft is reportedly also working on a low-cost set top streaming box for xCloud.
Of course, just because a company patents something, doesn’t mean the product will ever make it to market. That said, assuming something comes of this patent, would you be interested in Switch-like controllers for mobile devices? Or should Microsoft focus on something else?