Microsoft is closer to turning the the Surface Duo into the mobile gaming machine many hoped it would be with new support for custom layouts when using Xbox Touch Controls in the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
After releasing the Surface Duo last year, Microsoft added support for Xbox Touch Controls to mobile devices in the Xbox Game Pass app. But when it came to the Surface Duo, those controls didn’t really full take advantage of the Duo’s unique design.
But with this new update, not only is Microsoft giving the Surface Duo support for custom layouts in the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate app, it’s also getting a few enhancements that will allow games to make better use of the Duo’s dual screens and its wider aspect ratio display.
Microsoft says that when holding the Surface Duo in Compose Mode (which is with one screen on top and one screen on bottom where the touch controls would be), you’ll be able to create custom control layouts for more than 50 games available via Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
You’ll also be able to use custom controls to view content, navigate through menus, and even create button setups with columned layouts. And because Microsoft’s Xbox Touch Controls use the Duo’s displays as a virtual controller, you won’t need any outside accessories or add-ons, which means less stuff to carry around (though you will need a subscription to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, of course).
Now at this point I know that there are only so many Surface Duo owners out there, but what makes this news a bit more interesting is that recently, retailers have started offering heavy discounts on the Surface Duo, bring down its $US1,400 ($1,796) launch price to around $US850 ($1,090) (or lower depending on the vendor). And at that price, the Duo starts to become an interesting option for people who want to stream AAA titles on the go, while also having a phone-tablet that can become a really great emulation device (with a little effort), in addition to being a solid machine for work and multi-tasking.
But considering the experimental nature of the Surface Duo and it being very much a first-gen product, I would probably wait for one or two more price drops before throwing money down myself. But if Microsoft can take what it’s learned after making the Surface Duo and Xbox Touch Controls and then roll that into future devices, we could be in for some very interesting gaming hardware that once again stretches the definition of an Xbox.