Microsoft’s xCloud gaming service gets a mini Xbox controller

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8BitDo is making a mini Xbox controller for xCloud.
Image: 8BitDo

Later this year, Microsoft will launch its xCloud game streaming service as part of Xbox Game Pass. Part of the service’s allure is the fact that players will be able to enjoy games on the go by streaming them with a smartphone. For those who are serious, though, a controller is still necessary.

Dragging a traditional Xbox controller around simply isn’t practical. That’s why 8BitDo, a company known for its retro and alternative accessories, is making a slim version of the Xbox controller. It is officially licensed by Microsoft and will be compatible with both xCloud and regular Xbox consoles.

Mini Controller

8BitDo has made some pretty cool accessories over the years. Its retro NES controller is arguably the best-known among them. It also serves as the basis for the company’s xCloud controller.

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The final result looks like a cross between an NES controller and a regular Xbox controller with the handles cut off. Despite its compact size, it retains every button you’d find on a traditional Xbox controller—albeit with a different layout. Instead of offset analog sticks, they are directly next to each other like PlayStation’s DualShock 4.

8BitDo claims that the controller’s built-in battery should last for about 18 hours. Not only is it nice for an Xbox controller to include a built-in battery (looking at you Microsoft), that’s an impressive lifespan for such a small device. As a modern touch, the controller recharges via USB-C.

To ensure total compatibility with xCloud, 8BitDo worked closely with Microsoft to license the controller. It should work flawlessly right out of the box after a quick pairing process. The controller works with all Android smartphones and tablets. Unfortunately, iOS users are out of luck.

Meanwhile, a separate piece of software will let players customize their button mapping preferences and adjust the stick and trigger sensitivities. The mini xCloud controller even supports multiple profiles that players can switch between for different games.

Versatile Gear

For those looking forward to gaming away from home, Microsoft’s xCloud streaming service will be a welcome addition. Right now, it is being offered as part of an invite-only preview program to select users. Microsoft continues to smooth out the kinks as it works towards what it hopes will be a much cleaner launch than Google’s Stadia platform.

The latter fell flat out of the gate, leaving many questions about whether video game streaming would ever become mainstream. Since then, Stadia has managed to recover somewhat, helping pave the way for xCloud’s arrival later this year.

Accordingly, the first of 8BitDo’s Xbox controllers will ship on September 21. That could be a telling date for the launch of xCloud, or it could simply be a coincidence. Either way, gamers wanting to get their hands on one of the compact controllers can preorder theirs on Amazon starting Monday.

Officially called the SN30 Pro for Xbox, the controller costs $44.99. That’s pretty expensive considering it isn’t actually made by Microsoft. To help ease the pain, 8BitDo is including a phone mount in the box that lets players clip their device to the controller for easier viewing.

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