Xbox doubles down on accessibility in gaming, pledging to support game developers

Xbox Accessibility Guidelines Hero
Xbox Accessibility Guidelines Hero (Image credit: Xbox)

What you need to know

  • Xbox has sought to improve accessibility in gaming for years, and created the Xbox Accessibility Guidelines in 2020.
  • The XAGs were designed to help game developers create their games with accessibility for all players in mind.
  • Just over a year later, Xbox is launching many improvements to the XAGs to make them more comprehensive and easier to use.
  • Xbox is also launching a new program to help game devs test their Xbox or PC titles against the XAGs, with feedback from members of the Gaming & Disability Community.

Gaming is a wonderful activity that has entertained and delighted for decades now, and is a fantastic way for people of all walks of life to spend their time. Over the years, accessibility has become increasingly important in game development to help bring games to as many people as possible. Xbox, especially, has been a massive advocate for better accessibility in gaming. Today, Microsoft and their Gaming Accessibility team announced updates to their gaming accessibility efforts, with a new program for game developers (opens in new tab).

In 2018, Xbox launched the excellent Xbox Adaptive Controller. The XAC allows players who might have difficulty using a standard controller to build customized setups that suit their needs. In 2020, Xbox launched the Xbox Accessibility Guidelines, a comprehensive series of "best practices" to drive accessibility in gaming forward and help game devs make their projects as accessible as possible.

Today, Xbox announced that they're updating their XAGs with a ton of improvements to make them easier to use, easier to understand, and even more thorough for game devs. Improvements include clearer language, improved overviews, scoping questions and focus areas, educational background information, and guideline examples.

However, beyond these crucial improvements to the XAGs, Microsoft is also launching an industry-first: a platform-provided program that can test Xbox and PC games against the XAGs, and provide game devs with feedback on how to improve their games. This includes screenshots, examples, reproduction steps, and information about why certain aspects of a title may not be accessible to gamers. Xbox's new program will also provide information and relevant links to accessibility, inclusivity, and technical documentation, industry experts, and non-profit accessibility organizations.

Finally, gamers with disabilities are included in the testing program, so that every game tested against the XAGs is also played by members of the Gaming & Disability Community. These vital testers will also provide their own feedback and insight into what can be improved in games.

It's always great to see accessibility take another step forward in gaming, and hopefully, lots of developers will take advantage of Xbox's guidelines and testing program. Xbox is continuing to collect feedback from developers and the community to further improve the XAGs, and gaming will only become more accessible as time goes on.

Zachary Boddy
Staff Writer

Zachary Boddy (They / Them) is a Staff Writer primarily focused on covering the latest news, the best Xbox and PC games, and the most interesting hardware. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life, and have been with Windows Central and its sister sites since 2019. While originally brought on to write about all things Minecraft, Zachary has since expanded to write about practically everything that Windows Central covers. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.

1 Comment
  • Probably for physical disabilities but...
    Splash Damage and the Coalition did a brilliant job on Gears Tactics for ageing gamers.
    So many games today have micro text that I just can’t read from “sofa distance “ Gears tactics has large text. Clean font.
    Good colours (apart from the banned text on the. mission screen. Red on dark does not have enough contrast) It makes my enjoyment of the game even stronger. Mad props to MS/Splash and the Coalition for having a great UI for the visually challenged.