Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller is a gaming landmark

Why Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller is a huge landmark for gaming diversity and the inclusion of players with physical disabilities.

Video games have come a long way since kids were stuffing coins into arcade machines after work. For many people games have now become their main form of entertainment, with many metrics putting the industry’s revenue above both film and music.

The fact players’ have agency in games is one of its greatest strengths but for anyone with a physical disability that becomes an often-insurmountable barrier to entry. There are around a billion people across the world with a disability, including 13.9 million people in the UK. Research from Muscular Dystrophy UK found that one-in-three gamers has been forced to stop playing videogames due to their disability.

As games increase in complexity so do the controllers we use to interact with them. A few years ago the industry made a big push for motion controls and accessibility led by Nintendo’s Wii console, but this aimed more at get non-gamers involved rather than opening the doors for the physically handicapped.

There’s a community-slash-industry dedicated to building controllers aimed at gamers with disabilities, but sadly they’re often bespoke to individual handicaps and, as a result, are often very expensive.

Until now. Microsoft’s new Xbox Adaptive Controller is specifically designed for players with physical disabilities. Crucially, the controller is modular so it can be altered on the fly to meet individual demands. And it’s only $100. The company has also said it’s looking to allow the controller to work on rival consoles.

The Xbox brand has publicly been the underdog this console generation and so Microsoft clearly looking for a way to make an impact. Cynics could label it a pure PR move but Microsoft has made other, quieter strides into accessibility. It added in the functionality for its Xbox console to accept inputs from two controllers simultaneously, meaning a second person could help control an aspect of the game a person with a physical disability might have trouble with.

Regardless it’s a hugely innovative move in an industry that’s so reliant on its bottom line.