Microsoft is continuing its quest to make Xbox Game Pass a first-class contender for gaming. The company has now introduced support for dual-screen gaming on devices like the Surface Duo.
Here’s how the feature works: Fire up Game Pass on a device such as the dual-screened Surface Duo, and your game controls will be mapped to the bottom screen, with the top reserved for displaying your actual game. Developers can tailor the way controls are displayed on the lower panel, allowing different games to offer different buttons or control layouts.
Games can also support the Surface Duo’s built-in gyro, Windows Central reports, allowing your view in-game to rotate when you move the device. For now, this feature is only available in beta, but it’ll hopefully roll out across the main service soon.
The Surface Duo hasn’t reviewed particularly well and likely hasn’t sold all that well, either. I doubt Microsoft’s goal is to specifically appeal to the dozens of potential customers who both own a Surface Duo and want to subscribe to a streaming service.
What Microsoft wants to do is make Xbox Game Pass the accessible way to turn any mobile device into a gaming platform, even niche products. With Xbox Game Pass, the Surface Duo becomes a portable Xbox. Moving controls to the second display doesn’t fix all of the problems with touchscreen gaming and the lack of feedback is still a likely deal-breaker for some, but a second-screen device is easier to imagine using for Xbox Game Pass than a conventional smartphone.
Offering this feature on a Surface device is also an example of hardware/software synergy that companies like Apple often lean on in their marketing. I don’t think Microsoft is going to try and position Surface as a gaming brand, but if this capability works as advertised, the Surface Duo just picked up a neat feature. Future devices from other manufacturers should also be able to take advantage of this capability, which gives Microsoft a certain claim to ubiquity and flexibility that other services don’t offer yet.