When Microsoft unveiled their new tablet line, Microsoft Surface, at yesterday’s cloak-and-dagger press conference – trumpeting its Windows 8 OS, full-suite Microsoft Office compatibility, and PC-superannuating keyboard and kickstand – they also managed to keep the suspense drawn on so much more.

We still don’t have a price or a release date (which, admittedly, might have been the one blemish on the otherwise-stellar presentation), but with Surface’s design including a 2.0 USB port (3.0 on the Pro Surface), our main intrigue centers around the gaming chops Microsoft plans to pack into their new device. And we’re not alone.

Mark Rein, Epic Games Vice President and co-creator of Unreal Engine, was nothing if not exalted during a spate of post-Surface-announcement tweets. A pivotal figure in Unreal’s licensing business – the engine looks primed to spread its wings more than ever with Unreal Engine 4 – Rein’s excitement even spurred one tweet to hint at the tablet running Unreal-powered games:

Microsoft NAILS IT! Way to go Microsoft! Surface looks AWESOME! Can’t wait to get some Unreal Engine games on those babies!

We don’t know if Microsoft’s machinations have already included behind-the-scenes plans for bringing Unreal Engine to Surface, but Rein’s tweet might have been more prodding than it was playful.

Epic Games enjoys a cozy relationship with Microsoft – their Xbox 360-exclusive Gears of War series, published by Microsoft, is a best-selling testament to that – but the ubiquity of the North Carolina-based developer’s Unreal Engine has seen them chart courses with studios and publishers industry-wide.

Unreal Engine Games Microsoft Surface

For the tablet market, their biggest fruit is Apple, with Epic’s Unreal Engine 3 making success stories out of  iPad games like Infinity Blade and N.O.V.A. Coincidentally, though, Unreal isn’t supported by Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7, a partial byproduct of the device’s constraints on native app development. Just as Microsoft has been waiting years to jump into the tablet game, Epic and Unreal have likely been waiting right alongside them – eager, now, Rein suggests, to take advantage of both the tablet’s games and its integration with the Xbox 360/720 (we’re looking at you, SmartGlass):

“I suppose, being a proper Windows 8 device, that Surface will fully support the Xbox game controller. If so: bravo!”

However Microsoft’s Surface tablets turn out – and whatever Apple’s inevitable iPad response might be – it’s always exciting to see the way platforms are evolving and (potentially) pushing games forward. We’ll leave it to Rein and a few more selections from his timeline to explain:

“Just and awesome last month or two for the entire industry…”

“Future looks even better for gamers on all sorts of awesome platforms and I’m super happy that we’ll power all sorts of great experiences… On all sorts of exciting next-gen devices from all the great hardware companies!”

“Gosh I love this business!!!… it’s a great time to be a gamer.”

Ranters, with the idea that Surface might run Unreal Engine games, what new tablet experiences do you think Epic, its Unreal partners, and Microsoft can bring to the table? Will gaming – including any SmartGlass features and Xbox integration – factor heavily into your purchase plans?

Follow me on witter @Brian_Sipple.

Source: Marc Rein Twitter