When Microsoft’s upcoming Surface tablet debuts on October 26, those of you hoping to use the device as a compact gaming machine will be happy to discover that the Surface supports existing Xbox 360 controllers.
That news comes courtesy of a recent “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit conducted by Surface general manager Panos Panay. When asked, “Does the Surface support Kinect and/or 360 usb controller inputs?” Panay offered the following succinct response:
We used the 360 usb controllers to play with Surface all the time and they work great. We have not tried Kinect yet.
Before you start making plans to hoard Xbox 360 controllers en masse, it should be noted that Panay is specifically referring to the wired, USB Xbox 360 controllers. These controllers also work with Windows PCs, and given that the Surface uses an altered version of Windows this makes perfect sense. These controllers are not however, the stock wireless controllers that come packaged with the Xbox 360 console. Unless Microsoft has added additional hardware to the Surface that nobody knows about, you won’t be able to play games on the Surface with a wireless Xbox 360 controller.
However, as Panay mentioned, this does mean that Surface is theoretically capable of working with any first-party device that plugs into the Xbox 360′s USB port. Devices like the Kinect motion-sensing peripheral. Though Panay’s team never attempted to test the Kinect’s functionality on the Surface, this does indicate that it shouldn’t be too difficult for clever hackers to teach the Surface and the Kinect to communicate properly. Given the surprisingly massive hacker fanbase surrounding the Kinect, we doubt it will take much time before Kinect/Surface functionality is demonstrated on enthusiast forums and YouTube.
As for what all of this means to you, that depends on how often you intend to play games on the Surface. For almost all intents and purposes, it’s a tiny Windows PC and thus has a massive catalogue of games available to play. The Xbox 360 controller has an excellent, ergonomic design, offers almost every button you could need and even includes a vibration option. The Surface supporting these controllers is great news for gamers, doubly so given the Surface’s lightweight, portable design. It’s not quite a handheld gaming system capable of playing PC games, but it is a very mobile alternative to even diminutive modern laptops.