Microsoft Surface: What It Means For Tablet Gaming & Xbox 720
Microsoft Surface looks set to be a superb take on the tablet device, and while it has the technical grunt, Windows 8 compatibility and screen to make portable PC gaming a reality, what does the device really mean for gaming?
You have to first look at Microsoft’s key competition – Apple’s iPad – and how the App Store has given gamers a chance to hoover up a wealth of gaming experiences at low cost. Why would someone want to move away from the world of 69p apps and one of the largest multimedia libraries online today?
Microsoft Surface gives gamers an open platform for Steam, GOG and more
The problem many Apple critics have with iPad and App Store in particular, is that you are always locked into Apple’s framework. You can’t install programs or games beyond what is offered on App Store, you can’t tweak iOS beyond a few small adjustments, and so on.
But because Microsoft Surface runs Windows 8 out of the box, those restrictions no longer apply. Do you want to install and run Steam on your Surface? – No problem. Do you want to play flash games on Facebook? – Go ahead.
The fact that Surface is essentially a high-end PC in tablet form should get gamers very interested indeed, and when bolstered with keyboard, mouse and USB connectivity, you essentially have a portable gaming rig that you can take anywhere.
Microsoft Surface gives gamers high-spec hardware to run the biggest games
There are two Surface models – the first is the RT, and this can be considered the baby brother to the much more powerful Windows 8 Pro version. While there is a difference between both models, Microsoft’s specs still make for keen reading.
The Windows 8 Pro version of Surface is the most telling, with an Intel Core i5 Ivy Bridge processor, which is currently top of the range. The only notable absence – and it is a sizable one – is mention of GPU.
There is a strong rumour that Microsoft’s Surface RT model will boast an NVIDIA Tegra 3 or Tegra 3+ and that the Windows 8 Pro version could include the Tegra 3+ into the i5 chipset. If this all sounds like nonsensical gibberish to you, it basically means that Surface will be a graphical powerhouse.
So all of a sudden, the concessions that Apple developers have to make when adapting or porting triple-a games over to iPad or iPhone no longer apply, because once again, you can get these games from Steam, GOG or any download service online.
Microsoft Surface opens up tablet gaming to real triple-a experiences
Consider that App Store games like Mass Effect: Infiltrator and Dead Space are console offshoots, and that – while perfectly functional – they fall way behind their home console brethren, would you really feel content constantly settling for second best?
Microsoft’s interest in spreading the Xbox brand across its entire hardware portfolio is also telling. It’s clear that Surface will be no exception to this rule, and this is a real coup for the company, but it will only make waves if Microsoft is smart in its approach.
Imagine that Microsoft Surface allows you full access to the Xbox Live games on demand service. Suddenly, you have the entire Xbox 360 game catalogue consolidated into one device. In theory you could by Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 later this year on your Xbox on demand, and then play it on either your Xbox 360 or Surface.
This is exactly what Microsoft means when it talks about ‘asynchronous’ gameplay and method of delivery. The notion that – no matter what device you’re running – you can access and share in the same content, regardless of location. Microsoft truly believes this to be the future, and it’s not alone.
E3 2012 was awash with that word – ‘asynchronous’. Nintendo’s Reggie Fils-Aime waxed theoretical about multi peripheral play between the Wii U gamepad, Wiimotes and tablet controller, as if ushering in the next console generation there and then.
Sony too, has dipped its big toe into the notion, rolling out the PS3 brand across multiple devices – from Xperia Play to Sony Tablet S – in a bid to cast its net further across the industry.
Microsoft Surface gives us a preview of the next Xbox, ‘Xbox Surface’
Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony believe that this blanket approach is the future, and speaking specifically about Microsoft Surface – it seems that this line of tablets will be the first to really showcase how powerful tablets can be in relation to high-end gaming.
But finally, Microsoft Surface also gives us a taste of the form Xbox 720 – or to be more specific – Xbox Surface will take. This rumoured name for Microsoft’s next console was leaked via alleged internal documents, and the spec sheet makes for an interesting read.
The Xbox Surface specs talk of a “Tablet Computing Device” and a separate “Stationary Computing Device”, with specific details about each component, suggesting that Microsoft is going down the Wii U route. This also fit in nicely with Microsoft’s SmartGlass announcement at E3 2012.
Consider the Surface tablet line as a taster of what Xbox Surface will deliver in the next generation, and it’s difficult to avoid getting carried away by the prospects. Will it work however? Well, that’s a discussion for another blog.
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