While we enjoy talking about the latest and greatest headphones for Xbox and PC gaming, there are far more contentious accessories out there: for gamers, the divide between console and PC controls is a bitter, incredibly important line: Now Microsoft is blurring that line, and it has a lot of people nervous.
Of course, there are always been ways to use a keyboard and mouse on the PS4 and Xbox One, but they have involved semi-legal workarounds, outright bannable hacking, and not-so-compatible devices that involve annoying lag, so the line has held pretty steady.
A keyboard/mouse standard created by Microsoft itself, however, is an entirely different proposition, one that could allow PC-like response speeds and control, without any drawbacks, on the Xbox One. It also makes some from Microsoft’s point of view, since the company has been working hard the past couple of years to integrate Xbox and Windows 10 platforms as much as possible (in the future, it is quite possible they will be a single platform operating on two different devices).
That doesn’t really address the elephant-sized problem in the room, however: From key-mapping to mouse-based aiming, the mouse and keyboard setup is far more effective for competitive gaming than the Xbox controller. It’s a world of difference when playing shooters or games that require any sort of aim, which is why consoles have discouraged compatibility in the past and why servers are typically separated between console and PC versions of the same game.
Microsoft has acknowledged that, at least tacitly, by saying there may be problems with fairness. But don’t think that’s going to change anyone’s mind: mouse and keyboard compatibility is expected in the near future.
It appears Microsoft is going to address concerns in two ways. First, Microsoft will probably bring keyboard functionality first, and delay widespread mouse functionality to help level the playing field, at least for a little while. It’s weird, but you can see the logic.
Second, the company is likely to leave compatibility decisions up to developers, who will be able to enable or disable mouse/keyboard setups on a game-by-game basis. That’s a bit frustrating, and we don’t envy the developers who have to consider which part of their fan base to alienate – not to mention the new wave of hacking attempts that this approach will bring. Either way, it’s a mess, but probably inevitable at this point. If nothing else, Xbox gets credit for opening the can of worms all the way so we can deal with it.