It feels like it’s been a long time coming, but Xbox has announced that the Xbox One will finally be getting keyboard and mouse support for select games.
The phrase “select games” is key here, as this doesn’t mean that every Xbox One game will suddenly be playable with a mouse and keyboard. Instead, what this means is that developers are being given the tools to add keyboard and mouse support into their games if and how they choose to. Announcing the news on Inside Xbox, Microsoft’s executive vice president of gaming Phil Spencer said: “You shouldn’t expect that every game on the platform now supports mouse and keyboard,” he continued “It’s really about developer choice.”
“These are tools for developers,” Spencer clarified further. “There are certain games out there that require mouse and keyboard, and those can’t come to console today. If we put those tools in the hands of developers, we’ll get more of those games.”
In a more in-depth post on the Xbox website, Jason Ronald (Director of Program Management for Xbox Platform) said: “With this new input support at the platform level, developers can now build mouse and keyboard support in their games if and how they choose. It’s important to note that mouse and keyboard support for games is added on a title-by-title basis, entirely at developers’ discretion. For all other titles, nothing changes. Mouse and keyboard input is not enabled by default for games. Each development team knows their titles best and we support them in creating the right experience for their games as they see fit, to ensure an optimal and fair gaming experience. Warframe will be one of the first titles testing mouse and keyboard input when the feature arrives to Insider in the coming weeks.”
The term “fair gaming experience” is an important one going forward. It is typically (and correctly) considered that keyboard and mouse players have an advantage over players using a controller (specifically in FPS games) due to increased speed and accuracy, so it is massively important that any developers that decide to implement keyboard and mouse support into their game find a way to separate keyboard and mouse players from controller players during matchmaking in competitive multiplayer games. While this would be key to not giving anybody an unfair advantage, it would also increase matchmaking times for players as the player base will be split.
On a more positive note this does open up more opportunities for Xbox to have a more diverse catalogue of games – as Phil Spencer said in his announcement, some games require mouse and keyboard and this has prevented them from being made available on a console. Equally, there are certain genres of game that lend themselves much better to keyboard and mouse play such as real-time strategy games and MMORPG’s, so keyboard and mouse support would make these types of games much more accessible on the Xbox One.
Any USB-compatible mouse and keyboard will work with the Xbox One, but it was also confirmed that Microsoft is working closely with premiere peripheral manufacturer Razer to bring a custom keyboard and mouse set designed specifically for the Xbox One. More information about this partnership should become available during the Inside Xbox stream on November 10th.