With each generation of controllers, from Xbox to Xbox 360 to Xbox One to Xbox One S, the Xbox hardware team has led and innovated input for gaming. They’ve set new bars with Elite and Adaptive Controllers in performance, features, quality, and accessibility. When considering the next generation of gaming, they wanted to build on this legacy. At its core, Xbox Series X is all about speed, compatibility across generations, and the power to create deeper experiences. The team wanted to develop a controller that helps fully realize these promises, keeping in mind that even improvements that may seem small initially can make a big impact. At the same time, given the love fans have for the current controller, they wanted to ensure they didn’t change things just for the sake of change; building on the Xbox One controller in smart, evolutionary ways while ensuring the muscle memory players have built up over the years remains intact.
With those principles in mind, the Xbox design team developed a next-generation controller to deliver what fans wanted most: improved ergonomics for a wider range of people, better cross-device connectivity, easier sharing, and reduced latency. We had a chance to sit down recently with Ryan Whitaker, Senior Designer at Xbox, to talk about the team’s philosophy in designing the new Xbox Wireless Controller that will be included with Xbox Series X this holiday.
Xbox Wire: Did you make design choices with the new Wireless Controller to be more inclusive of all players?
Ryan Whitaker: Yes. Being more inclusive is part of the design process from the very beginning. That’s true for everything we make at Xbox. Whether we’re redesigning our standard controller or inventing a completely new one, like the Adaptive Controller, we ask ourselves and gamers, “How can we make gaming a better experience for everyone?” By listening to gamers and observing how people of all backgrounds and abilities play, we continue to learn more and find areas we can improve.
Xbox Wire: What sort of specific design changes did you make to reach that goal?
Ryan Whitaker: One key area we’re improving is fitting a wider range of hand sizes, especially smaller hands. By accommodating hands similar to those of an average 8-year-old, we found we could improve accessibility and comfort for hundreds of millions more people without negatively affecting the experience for those with larger hands. We did that by rounding the bumpers, slightly reducing and rounding parts around the triggers, and carefully sculpting the grips.
Xbox Wire: Why did you decide to change the design of the D-pad?
Ryan Whitaker: The new D-pad is about boosting performance and accessibility for all the ways people play. (And it’s one of my favorite parts of the new design.) When looking at the wide range of game genres and personal playstyles today, the D-pad is used in a lot of different ways. That’s why our Elite controllers have swappable D-pads. For some games, having crisp cardinal directions (up, down, left, right) with well-defined edges is what gamers need, and the cross is great for that. Some gamers need to hit accurate diagonals or perform sweep actions, which is where the facetted dish is designed to excel. And, of course, based on personal playstyles, some people just prefer one over the other.
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