Xbox Game Pass update turns the Surface Duo into a Nintendo DS

microsoft surface duo game pass update
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Microsoft’s Surface Duo could become the perfect stand-alone Xbox Game Pass phone thanks to a new update that adds support for dual screen devices. 

Instead of pairing the phone with a controller, or using single-display touch controls, a new version of Game Pass beta for Android effectively turns the Surface Duo into a Nintendo DS-style device. Unfortunately Mario still isn’t available.

Some Game Pass games, like Minecraft Dungeons, already support touch controls on Android, but the interface is not great. For starters your hands end up taking up too much of the screen, which definitely isn’t an ideal way to play.

But Microsoft might be onto something by splitting the action between the Surface Duo’s two displays. The top screen is the game display, while the bottom screen is home to a full set of controls.

You still have to deal with the fact that touch controls are not as tactile as physical controllers. But it sure as heck beats carrying around an Xbox controller to enjoy some gaming on the go.

According to Windows Central developers will also be given the option to alter the on-screen controllers. So different games could feature different buttons and configurations that are best suited to that style of gameplay. You can’t get that with the standard Xbox controller

Of course using the touchscreen also means Game Pass titles, like Gears 5, will be able to take advantage of the Surface Duo’s gyro controls. That means you’ll be able to turn the in-game camera around by physically moving the phone. Just another feature Microsoft appears to have borrowed from the Nintendo DS, and something Xbox controllers can’t offer.

This update does mean Microsoft is interested in giving people choice. Game pass is compatible with Xbox controllers, clip-on gaming peripherals like the Razer Kishi, and now DS-style dual screen controls. So it doesn’t matter how you want to play games on your phone, you have the ability to pick the style that suits you best.

For now, all we want to know is whether this feature will come to other dual-screen or foldable devices. Especially the ones like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2, which have the same 'fold out' design as the Surface Duo.

If you want to take advantage of the update for yourself, you’ll need an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription first. A regular Game Pass membership doesn’t let you stream games to Android devices. That’ll set you back $14.99 or £10.99 every month. 

Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.