If you’re physically able to play videogames with a traditional controller, it’s easy to take the standard array of joysticks, face buttons and shoulder triggers for granted. For many, though, that layout has long made playing games difficult or even impossible. Not everybody has the same abilities, and for too long videogames have generally ignored those who can’t physically use a controller in the way game designers expect it to be used.
That’ll soon be changing, at least for Xbox players. Last night Microsoft announced the Xbox Adaptive Controller, a new controller designed for players with disabilities and limited mobility. Designed in conjunction with a variety of partners focused on accessibility, including The Cerebral Palsy Foundation and The AbleGamers Charity, the Adaptive Controller is a flexible and customizable interface that can be adjusted for the specific needs of the player. The video below gives a sense of how multifaceted the Adaptive Controller appears to be, as players use the base unit and its two large buttons in conjunction with regular Xbox One controllers and various peripherals, including foot pedals.
In a post at the Xbox Wire blog, Microsoft’s Executive President of Gaming Phil Spencer looks at the full range of inputs that will be compatible with the Adaptive Controller. Many of these devices are made by third party manufacturers, so some players will have to buy more than just the base Adaptive Controller to fully customize it for their own abilities. The base unit will cost $99.99, which is more than a standard controller but significantly less than the kind of personalized devices players currently have to buy. And to raise awareness for the company’s accessibility outreach program, Microsoft will be hosting Ability Week at Microsoft Stores from Tuesday, May 29, through Saturday, June 2.
Again, accessibility has been a major issue with videogames for as there have been videogames. Previous devices made with accessibility in mind have been niche products with often prohibitive price points. The Adaptive Controller looks like a bold step towards making videogames accessible to more people than ever before, which is good for players, designers and the industry as a whole.
Microsoft will be releasing more news about the Adaptive Controller at the E3 press event in June.