What you need to know
- Microsoft is banning third-party "unauthorized" USB accessories from Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One consoles.
- Many fair accessories are being blocked, from racing wheels to fighting game joysticks and adapters. Disability peripherals will need to connect via a pricy Xbox Adaptive Controller to still function, if they aren't licensed through Microsoft.
- Getting your accessories licensed through Microsoft can be a difficult and pricy process, and require proprietary security chips from Xbox.
- Despite Microsoft's assertions that the new policies are to "protect users," it is declining to ban XIM cheating adapters from Xbox consoles.
- XIM uses Xbox hardware to trick consoles into thinking they're connected to a regular gamepad. However, we've learned that Microsoft does have APIs to block this tech, they just haven't used it for some as-of-yet unknown reason.
Playing competitive first person shooters on Xbox used to be fun, a long time ago. These days, companies opt to pool PC players and console players into the same servers to cut costs. The better games will try to match players by their input methods to maintain match integrity, but many other games simply don't bother.
PC players will say controller players have an advantage due to aim assist and console players will say keyboard and mouse PC gamers have an advantage due to rapid mouse cursor turning and aiming. What if you could have both mouse turning and controller auto aiming? You can with a XIM keyboard and mouse cheating adapter for Xbox and PlayStation.
These nasty accessories are a large part of why I generally only play Overwatch these days to get my competitive shooter fix, but even there XIM players can ruin matches. Microsoft recently announced that it is working to block any and all "unauthorized" third-party USB accessories for Xbox. Those off-brand racing wheels, fighting game sticks, and even disability accessories are being caught in the dragnet, which Microsoft says is to "protect" users from degraded experiences.
The new policy enforcement might make you wonder if Microsoft was planning to block some of the more annoying accessories, like those XIM adapters. Alas, we can confirm that won't be the case.
Speaking on the official XIM forums (via Dexerto), an admin confirmed that XIM peripherals won't be blocked by Microsoft's accessories ban. "Yes, we've confirmed it with a Brook device we have on the Xbox OS version mentioned in the article (got the same message with error code). Testing MATRIX and NEXUS without any issue. Remember that XIM products don't try to reverse or circumvent security protocols. The authentication controller you use is what the console is talking directly to."
Why doesn't Microsoft ban XIM on Xbox?
Indeed, I'd mentioned on Twitter (X) recently that I doubted XIM keyboards would get banned as a result of these new policies. I suggested that Microsoft, in fact, cannot detect these devices, owing to how they work. However, a couple of sources at Microsoft familiar with Xbox hardware reached out and confirmed to me that this is not the case. Microsoft does have APIs and has previously developed features to allow the detection and blocking of XIM hardware and similar spoofing adapters. But for whatever reason, they opt not to use it.
I can only guess right now as to why they continue to allow these accessories. It could be due to what XIM says, that their products don't technically violate any terms of service. It could be that Microsoft's systems for detecting these accessories is flawed, or perhaps they think it's not enough of a widespread issue to bother developing the tools.
Microsoft's hardware ban seems mostly about money
I can only really speak from my own experience. It's painfully obvious when you're in an Overwatch match with a XIM-using Widowmaker or a Call of Duty game with a XIM-using player. You can tell quite easily from kill cams and cursor movement who is using a mouse and keyboard, coupled with controller aim assist, to trivialize competitive play. At least in Overwatch you can hard-counter when players are cheating in this way, but in more traditional FPS like Call of Duty, you'll just have to wait the match out or take a leavers' penalty.
It seems that Microsoft's hardware ban is not actually about ensuring players have a great experience on Xbox, since it only really targets harmless accessories like fighting game sticks, racing wheels, and "unauthorized" disability accessories. Cheaters using XIM adapters and Cronus Xen will be able to continue plaguing games like Rainbow Six Siege, while Microsoft gets to ensure it gets a cut on every Xbox accessory sold.
User experience indeed.
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Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!