Mouse support is not the right solution for bringing Windows game streaming to the Xbox One


It must be really odd to be an executive at one of the console makers. Game journalists hang on your every word, or at least your every tweet.

Case in point, Xbox's Phil Spencer. The other day he was talking to the fans on Twitter about streaming Xbox One games to Windows 10 (which works really well, by the way) and someone asked him the obvious question: what about streaming Windows games to the Xbox One.

Spencer replied that he likes the idea but that there is no plan in place yet, and that it would require the Xbox One to support keyboards and mice for it to work, adding "those aren't far away." 

Bam, the videogame journalists were all over that. Shacknews, for instance, published "Xbox One expected to support keyboard and mouse, says Xbox boss" with a sub-head of "Finally! Consoles will get proper keyboard and mouse support!"

I guess it's great that the site is exposing Spencer's comments but first, the Xbox One already supports keyboards (which Shacknews even mentions in the article so why they mention keyboards in the title baffles me) and second, the PS4 already supports mouse and keyboard, so the sub-head makes no sense at all.

I'm using Shacknews as an example but many gaming sites covered this news.

And I'm picking on the gaming sites because they didn't follow up with the more interesting question of why this is a good thing. Yes, there will be niche cases where someone really wants to sit on their couch with a mouse and keyboard on the coffee table, playing a PC title on their TV via their Xbox One, but it's not going to be a mainstream activity. I'm left wondering why Shacknews is so excited that we'll "finally!" get mouse support.

I'd like to offer a different point of view. Look at what Valve is doing; they've spent the past couple of years trying to eliminate the need for a mouse and keyboard for PC gaming in the living room (via the Steam Controller). I feel pretty strongly that they've got the right idea (though I don't yet know how well they've executed on it; check back this fall when my pre-ordered Steam Controller arrives).

I've gone down the rat-hole of hooking up a gaming PC to the living room TV, and using a keyboard and mouse in that situation stinks. You can balance the keyboard on your lap and run the mouse on the cushion next to you, or you can lean forward and use them both on the coffee table, but neither method is particularly comfortable. Sure you could get some kind of lap desk if you're really determined, but at that point we're talking about the niche again.

Many PC games now support controllers and playing those games on the living room TV is a joy. The kinds of games that don't support controllers (like strategy games or stat-heavy RPGs) don't tend to play well from 10 feet away anyway because their user interfaces are hard to read from that far away. So really you need your mouse and keyboard just to get the game running, then you toss them aside and grab a controller. (Valve offers us "Big Picture" mode in Steam to help us launch games using a controller.)

So I greet the news that Microsoft is adding mouse support to the Xbox One with a big yawn. It's something that some very small portion of the Xbox One audience will use now and then, but it isn't major news. What I'd like to see Microsoft do is add support for Valve's Steam Controller or some new Microsoft peripheral that does basically the same thing. I'm totally on-board with the idea of streaming PC games to the Xbox One, but please let me do it without needing to litter the living room with PC peripherals.

ITWorld DealPost: The best in tech deals and discounts.