Microsoft's award-winning Adaptive Controller was nearly cut from funding

The Mirosoft Xbox Adaptive Controller plugged into some of the buttons and toggles it's compatible with
(Image credit: Microsoft)
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Microsoft has made a few choices over recent years that have really pushed the idea of "gaming for everyone". Game Pass is one of the cheapest ways to instantly get a library full of great games, including our 2021 GOTY Valheim (opens in new tab), and more recently Persona 5 Royal (opens in new tab). The Microsoft Adaptive controller is another great example of how the company is working to make gaming more accessible to all, and it almost never happened.

As reported by The Verge (opens in new tab), Microsoft nearly cut the Adaptive Controller during development. When funding cuts were being made to projects, the now widely acclaimed Adaptive Controller was close to the chopping block. The only reason it ended up seeing the light of day was because of how hard people working within the company fought for it to stick around.

"There was a point in time when the Xbox controller that was designed for accessibility was on the cut list," Microsoft's COO and CVP for Windows and Devices Robin Seiler told The Verge. "Across teams, Xbox and Surface, we said, 'No this is actually important for the world. This isn't about revenue or brand positioning; it’s just important for people to be able to play games if they want to'".

Given the concept rose from a hackathon project within Microsoft, it's clear the Adaptive Controller was important to people. Pushing to keep it going despite budget cuts is a great effort to ensure that more people can interact more efficiently with their devices, for gaming and other projects. 

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It's notable that Microsoft has since leaned pretty hard on the marketing with the Adaptive Controller, and has won multiple awards for innovation since. Hopefully we won't see any more big-wig attempts to stop this accessibility train in the interest of cost-cutting. 

That doesn't seem to be where the next big hurdle for Microsoft's Adaptive tech is coming from. Instead, it's ideas. We recently spoke to the Adaptive Controller's inventor (opens in new tab), Bryce Johnson, who although happy with the direction of the tech isn't too sure what to do next. It's led to some weird products coming out that claim to be accessible, but don't really offer much use just trying to cash in on the market.

Still, it's great to see accessibility come to the forefront of thinking when it comes to developing new hardware. Microsoft has already expanded into general computing devices with the Surface Adaptive Accessories and even Nintendo was revealed to be looking into its own adaptive controller (opens in new tab). There's also a way you can help 3D print controller mods for people who need them (opens in new tab).

Hope Corrigan
Hardware Writer

Hope’s been writing about games for about a decade, starting out way back when on the Australian Nintendo fan site Vooks.net. Since then, she’s talked far too much about games and tech for publications such as Techlife, Byteside, IGN, and GameSpot. Of course there’s also here at PC Gamer, where she gets to indulge her inner hardware nerd with news and reviews. You can usually find Hope fawning over some art, tech, or likely a wonderful combination of them both and where relevant she’ll share them with you here. When she’s not writing about the amazing creations of others, she’s working on what she hopes will one day be her own. You can find her fictional chill out ambient far future sci-fi radio show/album/listening experience podcast (opens in new tab) right here.

No, she’s not kidding.