The Microsoft Adaptive Controller is packed with accessibility features including an enlarged D-Pad, two large reprogrammable buttons and a huge array of inputs at the back for third-party controllers which will cater to a range of different mobility issues. These could include the Quadstick - a mouth-operated joystick that can be operated by blowing air into it or sipping air from it.
Despite there being millions of gamers around the world with disabilities, the solutions for actually playing games have often been expensive and complicated.
For many a gaming setup that supports their needs can cost thousands of pounds and require specialist help from either charities or companies that can make bespoke controllers.
Microsoft believes it has a competitively priced alternative with the Adaptive Controller as it costs £74.99. It will be available alongside a whole range of approved third-party accessories that Microsoft will also sell on its store.
The controller has been designed to support a dizzying array of controlling inputs and it’ll work both with the Xbox One and with Windows PCs without any setup or fiddling around in the settings menu.
The Adaptive Controller actually started life as a passion project by a group of employees who had been inspired after seeing how the Engaged Warfighter charity in the US was helping injured veterans get into gaming by creating bespoke customisable controllers.
Working with the charity’s founder Ken Jones the engineers put together a prototype for Microsoft’s 2015 Ability Summit hackathon.
It won the top prize and the following year a new prototype was created and again entered into the hackathon. By this point the project had started gaining real momentum within the company.
By 2017 it was clear that there was a need for the company to make a physical device with accessibility in mind. The Xbox had already gained a whole host of new accessibility features including the ability to let two players to control one character. Of course as with any company, it still had to make money.
Trying to develop a business case for an accessible product can be very, very challenging, because the scale of the products don’t generally make a positive business case for the investment that has to go in, acknowledges Leo Del Castillo, who was the general manager for Xbox hardware at the time.
Despite the resistance, the team were able to convince Microsoft’s execs that this was a product that needed to be made, regardless of the cost.
The controller will be released globally later this year.