A closer look at Microsoft's Xbox Adaptive Controller

Microsoft continues to embrace accessibility across the company, adapting its industry-leading technologies and resources in pursuit of inclusivity. It's a philosophy that's birthed products like the "Xbox Adaptive Controller," catering to those with disabilities and limited mobility on Xbox One. Following "years in the making" with non-profit organizations, this $99 gamepad is tailor-made for its audience. And it's expected to ship this fall.

The Xbox Adaptive Controller is one of the platform's most flexible accessories to date, both in the experience, and compatible accessories. While the average gamer won't pick this up, it makes Xbox and Windows 10 more inviting than ever, while setting a welcome standard moving forward.

After getting up close with the device at Gamescom 2018, we wrapped up our initial thoughts on this impressive device.

Related: How AbleGamers aims to bring gaming to those with disabilities

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Bringing Xbox gaming to all

Xbox Adaptive Controller

Xbox Adaptive Controller (Image credit: Gamescom)

While using a controller is second nature for many people, the standard Xbox One controller can be challenging for those with mobility-limiting conditions. The Xbox Adaptive Controller will be the first mass-market solution for Xbox gamers, providing the flexibility to build a setup around personal requirements.

Microsoft hopes the device will make Xbox One even more accessible, removing the current barriers of obtaining specialist hardware. While designed by veterans of Xbox's accessories team, third-parties have helped fine-tune its intricacies over time. This end result is a controller configurable with countless variations, allowing gamers to build a modular setup more easily.

Hands-on with Xbox Adaptive Controller

Unlike a standalone gamepad, the Xbox Adaptive Controller is best approached as a "hub" for various third-party accessories. The breakout box sports compatibility for a thriving ecosystem of sticks, switches, and other assistive devices, while ensuring compliance with the Xbox One controller mapping. It was much bigger than I expected in-person, packing 24 ports overall.

All 19 3.5mm ports can be used to connect third-party devices, directly mapping each to specific controller inputs. Specialist buttons, pads, pedals, and sensors are just an example of the compatible range, with the sole requirement of using a 3.5mm connector. Full PC joysticks can also be used over the dual USB ports, offering fine precision for left and right thumbsticks. And while USB-C is used for power, Microsoft sells a $19.99 AC adapter for when connecting high-power accessories like mouth-operated joysticks for quadriplegics.

On top of the device lay two large programmable buttons, providing two additional inputs alongside connected accessories. Xbox, Menu, View, and other key inputs are also included, along with a profile switch button for cycling player-made configurations. This all retains the branding of recent Xbox hardware, falling in-line with products like the Xbox One S and other white accessories.

Xbox Adaptive Controller accessories

Xbox Adaptive Controller accessories (Image credit: Microsoft)

During our brief time with the controller, its design and build quality was comparable with other official Xbox accessories. The device seemingly meets th high standard expected from Microsoft. We were unable to use the controller with games, but with strong groundwork at a software level, it's looking hopeful for launch.

Speaking with Microsoft's accessories team, it appears genuinely passionate about opening the platform to all-new gamers.

Retailing at $99, the base entry price for the Xbox Adaptive Controller is a great way for gamers with limited mobility to dive deeper into the Xbox ecosystem. While collecting a set of compatible accessories could be pricey, Microsoft's efforts to pursue accessibility are admirable.

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Your thoughts on the Xbox Adaptive Controller

For those interested in purchasing the Xbox Adaptive Controller, preorders are now live at $99, ahead of a scheduled September 2018 release. Does Microsoft's upcoming new accessory catch your eye? Sound off in the comments section below with your thoughts.

Matt Brown

Matt Brown was formerly a Windows Central's Senior Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.