Microsoft’s Unique New Xbox Adaptive Controller Enables Gaming for Everyone

Article By 
Alan Walsh
May 19, 2018

Microsoft’s Unique New Xbox Adaptive Controller Enables Gaming for Everyone

Article By 
Alan Walsh
May 19, 2018

Microsoft announced a new Xbox One controller this week, but it’s not one you’d come to expect. This controller is targeted at a specific audience to make gaming more accessible for everyone. The Xbox Adaptive Controller, as it’s officially called, is a first-of-its-kind device that has been created for gamers with limited mobilities in mind. It’s been designed to address the challenges they face when trying to enjoy games today – removing barriers encountered by disabled gamers by being adaptable to their needs.

The Xbox Adaptive Controller can be used on any Xbox One console or Windows 10 PC, and was developed in partnership with various charities and organizations from around the world, including The AbleGamers Charity, The Cerebral Palsy Foundation, Craig Hospital, SpecialEffect, and Warfighter Engaged. The device was also created in collaboration with many members in the limited mobility gaming community.

 

Microsoft’s Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, says the company worked closely with these charity foundations and organizations, as well as directly with gamers who have limited mobility to assist in the product’s development.

“Our goal was to make the device as adaptable as possible, so gamers can create a setup that works for them in a way that is plug-and-play, extensible, and affordable,” he said.
“This has been a milestone collaboration for us,” said SpecialEffect’s Founder and CEO, Dr. Mick Donegan. “Our experience in helping people with complex physical disabilities to access video games has enabled us to provide not only very relevant advice about features and design, but also direct feedback from a user-centred perspective. Microsoft have a product here that has the potential to help many people globally to enjoy the magic of video games.”

The Xbox Adaptive Controller works with common adaptive switches that gamers with limited mobility may already own, but it also has two large buttons built-in that can be reprogrammed to act as any of the standard controller’s button inputs via the Xbox Accessories app. It can even be mounted upon a variety of different accessories to meet the various needs of disabled gamers.

Microsoft also worked closely with third-party manufacturers to support external inputs which can be plugged in to the new controller. These inputs include PDP’s One-Handed Joystick purposely-built for the Xbox Adaptive Controller, Logitech’s Extreme 3D Pro Joystick, and Quadstick’s Game Controller.

The device features 19 labelled 3.5mm input jacks and 2 USB ports, as well as three custom profiles with a default one already preloaded onto the controller. It also has an internal Ion Lithium battery that can be recharged, and this will last gamers approximately 25 hours of game time before its need to be recharged again.

 

In the UK, Microsoft has been working with Muscular Dystrophy UK to promote the Xbox Adaptive Controller. Nic Bungay, Director of Campaigns, Care and Information for Muscular Dystrophy UK noted the device’s appeal and extreme usefulness for those with a muscle-wasting condition whose movements will become increasingly limited over time. He hopes the announcement and release of the Xbox Adaptive Controller is the first step towards a more inclusive video game culture.

“Microsoft’s new Xbox Adaptive Controller will make a real difference to disabled people, particularly those with a muscle-wasting condition whose movements will become increasingly limited over time,” Bungay said. “We know from our own research that video games are important to many disabled people. It allows them to socialise and compete with others on an equal basis, which has a positive effect on their wellbeing. Despite this, more than one in three young, disabled gamers told us they feel excluded due to a lack of accessibility. By working in partnership with Microsoft, we hope that today marks the first step towards a more inclusive video gaming culture.”

The Xbox Adaptive Controller has been in the works for almost three years, but Phil Spencer believes that this is only one step along Microsoft’s journey of inclusive design – and that there’s more work ahead for the company.

“This has been a passion project for people around the world, both inside Microsoft and beyond,” he said. “We’re thrilled to introduce it to the world today, tell the story behind it, and take what we have learned on our journey to inform future initiatives in inclusive design.”

The Xbox Adaptive Controller will be available exclusively through the Microsoft Store when it ships for $99.99 later this year – offering significant value over the customized alternatives that exist today. Additional details on the Xbox Adaptive Controller will be shared in a few weeks at E3 2018. This year’s Xbox briefing will be hosted from the Microsoft Theater and will take place on Sunday, June 10th at 1pm PDT (4pm EST, 9pm BST).

Finally, for more information on the Xbox Adaptive Controller, be sure to check out the latest feature piece on Microsoft Story Labs and hear directly from Microsoft Chief Accessibility Officer Jenny Lay-Flurrie in her blog post, which commemorates Global Accessibility Awareness Day. To celebrate this incredibly important day, we also released a feature story on the accessibility features implemented by Turn 10 Studios into Forza Motorsport 7 that make it the most inclusive racing game out there.

The Xbox Adaptive Controller is the latest example of Microsoft’s commitment to accessibility and inclusive design, as well as the company’s mission statement to “empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.” It’s a line that’s often used by Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, and it applies to all aspects of the Xbox Adaptive Controller, which will be a game-changer for the millions of disabled gamers around the world. Kudos to the entire Microsoft team on this incredibly special and unique product.

Alan Walsh

Alan is the co-founder and co-owner of FullThrottle Media. As someone who enjoys spending all his free time playing video games, he delivers the latest in news stories, reviews, and feature articles to the website, as well as videos on his YouTube channel and livestreams over on Mixer.