The Xbox Adaptive Controller puts disabled gamers back in the game, by allowing those with a wide variety of disabilities to finally play video games with a bit more ease. The creation of this controller has been a long time coming for disabled gamers. Just a few years ago accessibility advocates were fighting to get the big three gaming companies (Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft) to acknowledge the need for accessible gaming controllers around the globe. Today, Microsoft is leading the way towards an accessible gaming future.
In 2015, research from the Game Accessibility project found that 92 percent of disabled folks played video and/or computer games despite an overall lack of accessibility. For years, individuals with a variety of disabilities have had to be game hackers, developing their own setup to play on inaccessible gaming systems. The experience has been daunting, and the cost often exorbitant. A lot of disabled people express how expensive it can be to be disabled, and that includes recreational endeavors like gaming. Organizations like Able Gamers have been helping to make gaming experiences more accessible for disabled folks across the country, but without accessibility initiatives by game developers organizations like Able Gamers can only do so much.
The Xbox Adaptive Controller, which was released in September and costs $99 USD, is the first of its kind made available by a major game company. Using knowledge from companies who have been working on accessibility for years, as well as input from disabled gamers, Microsoft has developed a controller that combines the design elements of the Xbox, with the accessibility needs of a wide variety of gamers. The interface offers oversized A & B buttons that are so easy to press, you barely have to glide your fingertip against them. Next to them is an oversized D-pad.
The controller is rectangular, and much longer, flatter, and wider than a standard Xbox controller. Along the back are 19 different input jacks, where you can plug-in buttons, joysticks, switches, and various other input devices to customize your gaming experience. There is an input jack for every single button. You can create multiple profiles with different setups, remap every single button and input, and also copilot using the Xbox Adaptive Controller together with a standard Xbox controller.
Beyond development of this controller, Microsoft has assured disabled consumers accessibility is a priority for the company moving forward. This includes $25M they have invested in the AI for Accessibility program, which will give grants to those developing technology to empower disabled people. Accessibility ensures gaming is available to everyone, and slowly but surely, other game developers are starting to join Microsoft in including accessibility options in their games and accessories.
The development of the Xbox Adaptive Controller is a massive step forward for gaming accessibility. Still things are just getting started, gaming companies have a long way to go to make gaming truly accessible to everyone. There are a wide variety of needs to accommodate from chronic pain, PTSD, and anxiety to limited mobility, motion sickness and limited dexterity, amongst others.
While more gaming companies need to make accessibility a priority, Microsoft must be acknowledged for the inclusion they have created for millions of disabled gamers worldwide.