I’ve been fascinated with Microsoft’s journey to make, ship, and market the Xbox Adaptive Controller, an accessory for the game console for those with limited mobility to play games. And so I was thrilled to be able to include a talk on the controller at our recent GamesBeat Summit 2019 event.
Over the past few years, the company rallied around an idea to make gaming more accessible to a wider audience. The proposal for the controller floated up to Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, and he greenlit it. Microsoft announced it in the spring of 2018, wrapped it in accessible packaging, launched it last fall, and promoted it with a touching commercial that aired during the Super Bowl with the message, “When we all play, everybody wins.”
Gabi Michel, senior hardware program manager with Microsoft Devices, carried on this narrative in a fireside chat at our GamesBeat Summit 2019, in a session moderated by Keisha Howard, founder of Sugar Gamers. Michel led the hardware development with the aim of being inclusive, learning from diversity.
The product started with a hackathon. The ideas flowed. The team reached out to community-focused nonprofits such as Able Gamers, Warfighter Engaged, Special Effect, and others.
“We didn’t try to give them solutions right away,” Michel said. “We just listened.”
Then Microsoft teamed up with those charities to find gamers with limited mobility. But Michel said that the team struggled to design something that could be broadly useful. Most of its past products were targeted at a single use case. The team couldn’t focus on just one, and so it pivoted away from the concepts that it had in the original hackathon.
And for the first time, after all the press about the Xbox Adaptive Controller, Michel told her own story about working on the project.
“I want to do the gaming community justice,” she said. “As a gamer, I want to build something great for gamers.”