Aside from whatever motion-control tech Nintendo has tried to push, game controllers haven’t actually changed much over the last 15 years. And for a lot of people, that’s been a good thing, as it makes transferring years of hand-eye coordination from one console to another pretty seamless.
But for gamers with disabilities, the standard gamepad setup featuring a couple analog sticks, d-pad, some face buttons, and assorted shoulders bumpers and triggers is often far from ideal. So to help give more gamers a better way to play games, Microsoft created an all-new controller designed specifically for people with limited mobility.
Dubbed the Xbox Adaptive Controller, or XAC for short, Microsoft’s peripheral looks more like a funky arcade stick instead of a traditional gamepad. Instead of a joystick, there are two over-sized pads and a standard d-pad, along with Microsoft’s typical assortment of menu and navigation button.
But around back is where things get really interesting, because the XAC sports a total of 19 3.5mm inputs that can be hooked up to pretty much anything, including foot pedals, extra external buttons, or custom-made switches. Each 3.5mm jack is also labelled in two places to show which button that port is mapped to, which can be customised even further inside the Xbox Accessories app.
If that wasn’t enough, the XAC also comes with a dedicated headphone jack and additional USB ports (both Type-A and Type-C), which can be used to plug in or send extra electricity to even more gaming accessories. There’s even a feature Microsoft is calling Copilot Mode that lets gamers pair the XAC up with a standard Xbox One controller to create a multi-part hybrid control scheme.
When designing for people with limited mobility, Microsoft tried to pay attention to even the smallest details. So instead of using replaceable batteries on the XAC, which many disabled gamers say are difficult to switch out, Microsoft went with a built-in rechargeable battery instead. There are also little grooves cut into the space above each 3.5mm jack, which should make it easier to plug and unplug various accessories. And on bottom, there are even threads built into the base of the controller so that it can be mounted to all sorts of stands for better accessibility.
As for the price, the XAC will be relatively affordable, starting at just $100, and should be available sometime “later this year.” And if you want to learn more about how the XAC was built and tested based on feedback from disabled gamers, check out this blog post from Microsoft.