Pre-orders are now live for the Microsoft Xbox Adaptive Controller, which has a release window of early September. The $100 price includes just the basic Adaptive Controller and a 9-inch USB-C cable for attaching accessories. It is aimed at opening up a whole new world to countless disabled gamers everywhere.
Digital Trends recently spoke with project lead Gabi Michel about the Adaptive Controller, who told us all about the project’s genesis, the inclusive design principles that fueled it, and what it says about the future of Xbox and gaming in general.
Most users are going to need additional components to get full use out of the Adaptive Controller, but the whole driving principle is that every player is unique, with unique needs, and so Microsoft opted to keep prices down by only including the bare minimum in the package and then allowing users to expand it à la carte. Microsoft links to more than a dozen of these verified accessories on its store, ranging from a $20 one-handed joystick resembling a Wii nunchuk to a $400 mouth-based controller designed for quadriplegic gamers. These come from a wide range of hardware manufacturers on both the gaming side, such as Logitech, and specialized accessibility hardware makers like AbleNet and QuadStick.
Apple may be working overtime to kill the 3.5mm jack, but Microsoft is embracing it as the accessibility industry’s extant standard. This means that many of the Adaptive Controller’s users will be able to use devices that they already own by simply plugging them into the Adaptive Controller, such as various buttons and switches developed by AbleNet. Microsoft’s hardware team took efforts at every turn to make using the controller as straightforward as possible for disabled gamers and any caretakers that may be helping them, so everything works by simply plugging it into the corresponding jack.
More advanced customization is possible through the Accessories app on Xbox (the same used for reprogramming the Elite controller). For instance, you can set a foot pedal to serve as a “shift” button, which doubles the functionality of a single attached joystick. That way, someone with use of only a single hand could effectively control both thumbsticks with just one. The adaptive controller can hold up to three separate programmed configurations at a time (as well as the default), allowing users to easily save profiles for different games.
The Xbox Adaptive Controller will ship in September, with the aim of establishing a new standard for accessibility in the mainstream video game industry.