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Microsoft’s Accessibility-Geared Xbox “Adaptive Controller” Is Genius

Gamers who have been at their hobby for a long time might not find game controllers, even in all the weird evolutions they’ve gone through—looking at you, N64 controller—to be difficult to use, but we’ve all seen someone struggle with them at one point or another. They’re fairly complex input devices, which can make them difficult to use for players with physical disabilities. Microsoft’s new Xbox Adaptive Controller has addressed that problem in a rather ingenious way.

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The body of the controller itself doesn’t look like much, and that’s because it’s really not the main feature. It houses two large, programmable buttons for ease of use, as well as a D-pad and a few other necessary buttons. When the controller was leaked days before its official announcement, there was a lot of confusion over how it would truly help anyone who has difficulty using a standard controller, because of its limited look, but the real benefit comes with the ports that line its back.

Not only does it feature individual inputs for each button on a standard Xbox controller, allowing the owner to plug in switches, foot pedals, or whatever other peripherals are most convenient for their use, but the ports are standard 3.5mm jacks (the same kind you’d use for headphones), which is a standard for accessibility, allowing disabled players to connect devices they may already own. That could help mitigate the cost of such a controller, with the base unit set to retail at $99.99.

The controller has been in the works for years, as Xbox director of product marketing Navin Kumar told Polygon, beginning with the Xbox Elite controller’s unanticipated, if comparatively minor, accessibility benefits. Now, it’s a finished product that will be in stores later this year, with the charity group AbleGamers—one of Microsoft’s partners in creating the controller, who have previously worked with a similar but custom-made design—excited that the device’s price point, which they say makes it “the most cost-effective piece of technology on the market today,” will allow them to provide more players with controllers than ever before.

I only hope to see similar products from companies like Nintendo and Sony, for use with their own devices, in the future.

(image: Microsoft)

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Dan Van Winkle
Dan Van Winkle (he) is an editor and manager who has been working in digital media since 2013, first at now-defunct <em>Geekosystem</em> (RIP), and then at <em>The Mary Sue</em> starting in 2014, specializing in gaming, science, and technology. Outside of his professional experience, he has been active in video game modding and development as a hobby for many years. He lives in North Carolina with Lisa Brown (his wife) and Liz Lemon (their dog), both of whom are the best, and you will regret challenging him at <em>Smash Bros.</em>

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