June 15, 2012 at 8:16 PM ET
Rumors have begun circulating about a Microsoft tablet again, and Monday may indeed mark the arrival of one. But what would such a tablet need to have to grab gamers? Microsoft has sat out portable gaming while PlayStation Vita, Nintendo 3DS, Android and iPad battle it out. To be a huge success in the gaming world, an Xbox-friendly Windows 8 tablet would need to take inspiration from three key devices.
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The Transformer Prime Android device by Asus was the first real step in creating a hardcore and casual gaming tablet. The quad-core tablet is powered by Nvidia's Tegra 3 processor and has HDMI out. It's capable of playing 3-D games with complex particle effects and it can even be used with your standard Xbox or PlayStation controller via USB. That combination of functionality and power coming from Nvidia's processor almost made the Transformer Prime a gaming platform by itself. The only thing holding it back was content, or Android's general lack thereof when compared to the Nintendo 3DS or the PS Vita.
Sony's PlayStation Vita also has a quad-core processor with a beautiful screen but the reason for the PS Vita's success is the huge amount of quality games and fantastic controls. But not everything on the PS Vita is fantastic — try to avoid the Web browser if you can.
Finally, there's the iPad. What holds back Apple's "magic" tablet from being a hardcore gaming baddie? No native HDMI out by design, a lack of 3-D support and no easy way to use USB controllers makes it less adaptable for hardcore gamers. However, the iPad's friendliness and the relative security of its software (and App Store) have let it dominate the casual gaming world. Like the PS Vita, titles matter. The massive amount of casual games available on the iPad has been its greatest asset, at least in the gaming realm.
A Microsoft tablet needs to be many things to shock gamers into paying attention. Clearly, the performance of Windows Phones shows that mere Xbox synergy won't cut it. An Xbox-primed tablet must have the HDMI out, 3-D capability and mouse-and-controller friendliness of the Transformer Prime. It needs the excellent controls of the PS Vita and the charm and simplicity of the iPad to boot.
What they need most though is content, and it's the content that the Xbox already has. Microsoft not only has its own incredibly popular video game franchises like Halo but the Xbox platform is held up by strong relationships with third party game developers as well.
Microsoft has to speak to casual gamers with "Angry Birds," "Cut the Rope," and "Plants vs. Zombies." But if Microsoft's execs can hit the stage Monday and show off popular hardcore titles like "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim," "Diablo 3," or "Modern Warfare 3," then they'll really have something.
Taking the very best from the Transformer Prime, PS Vita and iPad is a tall order, but it's the order that gamers everywhere have placed and darn it we want to get served.
Curious about what's next for Microsoft? Join msnbc.com's Wilson Rothman on Twitter or at msnbc.com's Gadgetbox for live coverage of the mysterious Microsoft Windows 8 tablet event, starting at 3:30 p.m. Pacific/6:30 p.m. Eastern Monday.
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