There’s no question the iPad has had a major impact on the mobile game industry. With the Nexus 7, Google looked to make itself known in the mobile games sector as well with some impressive hardware. Thing is, while gaming on these devices is great, neither device is actually built specifically for games.
Back in June 2012, it was rumored that Microsoft was working on an Xbox Surface tablet built for mobile gaming. According to a report from The Verge, Microsoft is undergoing lockdown in its Xbox division in Silicon Valley for a secret project that isn’t the Xbox 720 or NeXbox (as the article states, the next console will most likely be produced by Foxconn).
A rundown of the device based on a spec sheet uncovered June 2012 show this mysterious device may include a 1280 x 720 display with a 3.1 GHz processor and 5 GB of memory. It could also include four USB ports, an Ethernet port, 250GB onboard storage and an SD card slot all in a 7-inch device.
A Whole Lotta Device
Microsoft has yet to say anything about the device, even a tease of its existence so it’s hard to say whether or not any of this is legit. For all we know, this could actually be some sort of high performance Surface Pro tablet or just a pipe dream.
What is interesting to consider is what a device like this would mean for the mobile gaming market. The OS on the device would most likely be a custom version of Windows 8 but should still have social features baked in which would make this a tempting experience for gamers.
The obvious advantage would be the sheer amount of mobile games a consumer could put on this 250 GB with expansion device. The iPad ranges from 16 to 64 GB of storage while the Nexus 7 has 16 and 32 GB. Neither of these tablets offer expandable storage.
If the hardware is anything like the supposed leaked spec sheet claims, this theoretical Xbox Surface device would allow for really high quality games to enter the mobile market. More importantly, Microsoft could take on Sony and Nintendo and finally realize the dream of the Xbox Anywhere gameplay they talked about so long ago.
Sony currently allows gamers with a Vita to play select games anywhere they are. It’s a great feature that makes the Vita the best PS3 accessory on the market but the lacking support is holding it back. Nintendo’s WiiU GamePad controller allows gamers to play the system sans television provided the game supports it but not much else. If this gaming Surface tablet could do both of these things and more, it would be hard to imagine Microsoft not being able to dominate.
Provided the Price is Right
Based on the supposed specs it would be hard to argue for a price below $500. The current Surface RT retails for $599 with touch cover and $499 without touch cover. However, if Microsoft is wiling to go the Amazon route of breaking even or even taking a loss to bring people into the new Microsoft ecosystem then maybe they can have a hit that will eventually generate a profit somehow.
Let’s be real, though: Would you pay $500 for a console quality mobile gaming device?
Something else to be skeptical of is how much this device would weigh. Take a look at the specs again and then consider how thick an heavy this device would be. While Apple and Google are striving to make sleek, thin, and light devices – this thing would probably be a tank, no, it would be a fortress next to those devices. Would the trade off of being having all of that stuff be worth the extra weight and size? I say yes, to a certain point, but you may disagree.
One final thing is how developers have been speaking out against Microsoft’s certification process. Words like “archaic” have been thrown around calling for Microsoft to lighten up restrictions. With Windows 8’s interface, applications must be able to be support the Tile UI to be accepted by the Windows Store. This becomes a problem for something like Surface RT, which can only install apps from the Windows Store. There was also some controversy about Microsoft not allowing Mature rated applications in the Windows Store. While that probably wouldn’t have become a big deal for an Xbox Anywhere scenario, it would have probably affect the chances of more hardcore gamers from considering the Xbox Surface.
The idea is interesting though and I think this is the first time in a while that I have actually been extremely intrigued by a rumored product, let alone a Microsoft one. Imagining a mobile extension of the Xbox that allows me to play my games anywhere is appealing if, and only if, Microsoft can make this thing not feel like a tank and not have to bury my bank.