Like the original Xbox games are returning with backward compatibility, Microsoft is also bringing back the original, massive Duke controller. And I found the device on the show floor at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles.
Microsoft is working with peripheral company Hyperkin to bring the Duke to back to life, and it is now in a prototype state with plans to release it potentially later this year. Hyperkin doesn’t have an exact date or price, but it does know that the pad will work with Xbox One or PC. The original Xbox games, which you can play from disc or digitally on Xbox One will also map automatically to the correct buttons. That means the black and white buttons, which will act as right and left bumper in 360 and Xbox One games, will work exactly like they should if you are playing Crimson Skies or Jade Empire. The updated pad also has a nine-foot cable and a circular LCD screen in the middle.
The Duke, of course, was the first controller Microsoft shipped with its Xbox hardware. It was notorious for its huge size and somewhat awkward button placement, but it also had its fans. Personally, I remember the button placement making games like Tony Hawk impossible, but that’s just me.
The return of the Duke is almost entirely due to one man: original Xbox designer Seamus Blackley. He has spent the last year or so teasing Microsoft boss Phil Spencer on Twitter about making this product, and they apparently relented and are now fully supportive of the project.
“When Microsoft first reached out to us to do the project, they said we would be working with Seamus,” Hyperkin product developer Chris Gallizzi told GamesBeat. “And Seamus has been very supportive in helping us out. It’s been nice having another passionate person who like the Duke as much as us.”
But the Duke project at Hyperkin is still in an early state. I couldn’t get my hands on it because the device only came together in the last few months.
“Microsoft reached out to us to ask if we could do something before E3,” said Gallizzi. “They filled us in on their backward compatibility program, and it was definitely something we wanted to do.”
Now, it’s just a matter of waiting for Hyperkin and Microsoft to work through the process of finalizing the product and getting it on the market. But Hyperkin has a long record of delivering these kinds of throwback devices, so fans should expect it soon.