Microsoft has been making positive changes to Xbox in the name of accessibility, including how the consoles themselves are designed and added tools for players to use to ensure they can dive into whatever adventures that suit their fancy. The Xbox Adaptive Controller was a huge step in the right direction for this initiative, but that doesn’t mean that the peripheral hasn’t seen a unique evolution before it made its way into gamer hands.
We recently sat down with Brannon Zahand, Microsoft’s senior gaming accessibility program manager, to learn a little bit more about the Xbox accessibility movement. On interesting thing we learned was how the Adaptive Controller changed since it was in simple concept phase, including how it looks “nothing like” how it did on the drawing board.
When asked about how the controller has changed and if more changes were on the way, Zahand replied: “Absolutely, the Xbox Adaptive Controller looks absolutely nothing like the first prototype created. It changed many, many times over the course of development. The reason was that we built the device with the Gaming & Disability Community, not for them. As such, feedback constantly was rolling in that forced us to continually re-examine the design of the product during development. That’s why I think the community gave the Xbox Adaptive Controller such a warm reception; the end result was reflective of our long-term partnership with them on the project.”
A peripheral like this is built off of the feedback and needs of the targeted community, so that continuous feedback will ongoingly impact what the controller evolves. That being said, we are in a new generation, and Microsoft wanted to ensure that gamers diving into the X and S could do so comfortably:
This is also why we’ve made the Xbox Adaptive Controller compatible with the new Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S consoles, so that players can seamlessly transition to the new console with the configuration they know and love. It keeps the learning curve minimal and the costs associated to moving to the next generation down, something that we know is of particular importance to our community.
So when we think about new features or improvements, we always make sure we’re not just trying to add new bells and whistles for the sake of it; it has to serve a purpose and really fill a genuine need. Going forward, we are largely investigating ways we can improve upon the device through software updates
As someone with MS (Muscular Dystrophy), I rarely have feeling at all in either of my hands, sometimes I have no control over them as well. This is one of the reasons I primarily play on PC due to the customization, but that’s not an option for all, not all situations are similar when looking at physical needs. Not only has Microsoft been putting its money where its mouth is, so to speak, but the company has been advocating heavily for more accessible options from game developers and platform competitors as well.
In terms of making sure that this particular controller continues to work the way it is intended with the new generation of gaming, the process remains focused on the users with limited mobility. It’s that continued conversation that shaped how the team tailored the controller itself to the X and S.
“It’s really about focusing on the user experience for people with limited mobility. We prioritized continuity and compatibility because we don’t want to burden those who are already using the Xbox Adaptive Controller to have to learn new tech or purchase and then adapt to a new controller. This also goes for existing accessibility features, like copilot, narrator, speech-to-text and text-to-speech – all of these new features are available on Xbox Series X|S because we know they are helpful to a variety of gamers and they make gaming more accessible for everyone.”
If you’re interested in the Xbox Adaptive Controller, you can learn more about them right here.
Accessibility is an important conversation to have in gaming. It wasn’t long ago when even colorblind options were seen as “too much” during the development process. Since simple steps like that, larger movements have been made to make sure that gaming is everyone; from hardware to software, no one should have to miss out because of life circumstances.