Redmond, US, May 16, 2018 — Microsoft reveals new Xbox Adaptive Controller to help people with a wide range of disabilities to play games on Microsoft products. In a blog post, Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox and President of Gaming at Microsoft, confirms that the new adaptive controller has a variety of interoperability functions to improve accessibility. Microsoft plans to sell these for $99.99, but you can only buy them via their own channels and not through other vendors.
The price is approximately twice the amount of what a common Xbox One controller costs. Spencer explains that the product will be sold starting “later this year.” No precise release date has been provided yet and pre-ordering the product has not yet started either. It’s very likely that more details are going to be revealed by Microsoft during the upcoming E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) event during June in Los Angeles.
The new Xbox Adaptive Controller looks a little like a DJ turntable but it is highly customizable, and it’s possible to connect other control devices and buttons which then can be mapped to match the gamer’s requirements. That means that you can hook up dedicated buttons, joysticks, pedals or other kinds of peripherals to help players with disabilities.
How did they get the idea?
Spencer also states that this product has been years in the making and is following principles for inclusive design to increase accessibility for gamers to play games (again). In a different post, Deborah Bach reveals that the idea of the Xbox Adaptive Controller goes back to 2014 when a Microsoft engineer spotted a photo of a custom gaming controller, on Twitter, made by Warfighter Engaged, an NPO that developed and provides gaming devices to wounded vets. Since then, they have been doing a lot of research and worked together with a group of disabled gamers to build this new solution.
During the design phase, Microsoft built the “Inclusive Tech Lab” on the campus in Redmond, Washington. They created the lab to be “an embassy for gamers with disabilities”. Kris Hunter, director of devices, user research, and hardware accessibility for Microsoft Experiences & Devices, said, “The lab is the evolution of everything coming together”… “It’s an embassy for gamers with disabilities, where we bring them in, we listen to their feedback, we see how they play. They’re interested in helping us build better products”.
Gaming should be fun for everyone
Seeing the effort Microsoft puts into R&D for accessibility it appears to be possible that they will release more devices for improved accessibility in the future, including gamers with partial blindness. Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Microsoft’s chief accessibility officer, said, “Gaming should be fun for everyone, whether you’re a person with or without a disability” … “The Inclusive Tech Lab explores how technology can empower gamers with disabilities.
Folks are getting together to think through how to make a game not just accessible, but totally awesome for someone with a disability. There is nothing but potential to make gaming more inclusive for everyone,” … ”We absolutely take on that challenge and encourage more gamers to get involved, especially if you have a disability.”
To do all this Microsoft leverages a resource pool that not many organizations can utilize. Whatever resource they are doing and whatever they come up with here, could also benefit the workplace of the future and disabled workers of today.
Seeing this product hitting handicapped gamers creates a degree of pressure for their competitors in the gaming market. It is now Sony’s and Nintendo’s move to offer a similar control device for more accessible gaming that works with their own entertainment consoles PlayStation 4 and Switch.
YouTube: Introducing the Xbox Adaptive Controller
Photo credit: The photos have been made by Andrew Kist, Brian Smale, Daniel Victor & Swanson Studio.
Source: Microsoft news story by Deborah Bach / Microsoft press release by Phil Spencer
Editorial notice: The quotes were provided by Microsoft as part of their public press material.