Adaptive Controller for Xbox sets precedent for accessible gaming

11th June 2018
Alex Lynn

Pre-orders opened today for a new kind of gaming controller, Microsoft’s Adaptive Controller. Compatible with Xbox One and PC, the Adaptive Controller aims to give gamers who may not be able to reach all of the buttons and toggles on a traditional gaming controller the ability to access the same games.

Gaming is a huge and ever-growing industry, with estimations of well over a billion people playing worldwide, so it is well past time for the industry to make itself more accessible to everyone. Over the last few years there has been a noted increase in female-lead games which has made the industry more inclusive to its millions of female customers and now finally there is progress making gaming accessible to gamers with disabilities too.

The Adaptive Controller has been developed by Microsoft in collaboration with organisations including The AbleGamers Charity, The Cerebral Palsy Foundation, Craig Hospital, SpecialEffect, and Warfighter Engaged. This has allowed them to work closely with gamers with limited mobility to develop a product which should be significantly easier for gamers with limited mobility to use, as well as being much cheaper than any existing solution. Prior to this release, gamers with disabilities had to have rigs custom made, leaving many unable to afford the hardware and therefore left out of the gaming world.

The Adaptive Controller has two large buttons on its surface, which can be programmed to function as any of standard buttons on a controller. What is very useful is the device also has 19 3.5mm jacks and a USB port, which are compatible with existing accessibility devices to support external inputs. By allowing the controller to be compatible with pre-existing adaptive devices, Microsoft has made the controller morecustomisable and therefore accessible for the widest range of gamers as well as more affordable.

Solomon Romney, a Microsoft Store learning specialist and gamer who was born without fingers on his left hand said: “I can customise how I interface with the Xbox Adaptive Controller to whatever I want. If I want to play a game entirely with my feet, I can. I can make the controls fit my body, my desires, and I can change them anytime I want. You plug in whatever you want and go. It takes virtually no time to set it up and use it. It could not be simpler.”

Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox, explained: “Our goal was to make the device as adaptable as possible, so gamers can create a setup that works for them in a way that is plug-and-play, extensible, and affordable. In addition to working with common adaptive switches that gamers with limited mobility may already own.” 

At E3 2018, Microsoft announced its desire to make the Adaptive Controller available not only on Microsoft products, but also on Sony’s PlayStation and Nintendo’s Switch. Evelyn Thomas, the project’s program manager, said: "We'll work with other providers to figure out how we can make this work on other platforms. It's really about the democratisation of accessibility. I want this to work on Sony, I want this to work on Nintendo. I want it to work everywhere, because the gamer wins when that happens."

With the Adaptive Controller, Microsoft has set a precedent for accessible gaming that will hopefully see other popular gaming platforms follow in the future, either via a collaboration with Microsoft’s Adaptive Controller, or by developing their own affordable accessible gaming controller.

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