The new Xbox One controller may seem like a modest improvement over the Xbox 360’s, but it cost 100 million dollars to get the design right.
When viewing the current and next generation Xbox controllers side by side, the apparent improvements aren’t exactly groundbreaking. The most obvious visual changes are the colors of the buttons on the face of the pad (Y, B, A, X) being subdued, the thumbsticks now have a finely textured strip of rubber around the edges, and the batteries fit flush with the shape of the controller, rather than sliding into a bulky protuberance on its backside.
At first glance, it seemed like Microsoft was taking the safe route with their Xbox One controller design, but after revealing that they threw 100 million dollars at it, we see how untrue that assumption is.
According to general manager of accessories, Zulfi Alam, much of the money went into testing the various prototypes they’d thrown around. When asked about bold new technology like the Sony DualShock 4’s touchpad and light strip or the Wii U’s tablet-as-gamepad, Alam admitted that they did consider these sort of innovative ideas, but their confidence with what they had won out.
Looking deeper, we can find some more substantial improvements. For one, the Xbox One controllers have Impulse Triggers designed to give context-specific, precise vibratory feedback. Also, a gamepad stuffed with tiny rumble motors allows for Xbox One games to stimulate different parts of a player’s hands depending on what’s happening on screen. Finally, an infrared sensor surrounding the central Xbox button communicates with the all-seeing Kinect 2.0, so it knows who’s holding the controller at any given moment.
Perfection is costly and evidently, that’s what Microsoft is going for with these Xbox One gamepads. If you’re looking for more on the new controller, check out what Zulfi Alam and Microsoft’s own Major Nelson have to say: