In brief: Microsoft should be releasing a new Xbox controller alongside the Series X this holiday season. It will be more ergonomic, responsive, and cross-compatible. That is as long as the pandemic crisis doesn't ruin manufacturing schedules.
As Microsoft's next-gen console gets closer to launch, it is starting to open up about the design and features of the Xbox Series X (XSX). As is customary, the new hardware will include a newly redesigned controller. Senior Designer Ryan Whitaker revealed details about the gamepad in an interview on Monday.
Visually the XSX controller is about the same. Microsoft has seen a positive response to the Xbox One gamepad's design and did not want to change things too much. The most noticeable difference is the previous cross-shaped D-pad has been replaced by one that is more similar to the one used on the Elite controller.
It will also have a Share button similar to Sony's DualShock 4 that will allow users to quickly upload screenshots and videos from games. The grips and triggers and more textured and have a matte finish consistent with the D-pad. Microsoft has also reshaped these features to be more ergonomic. According to Whitaker, these aesthetics were modeled for comfort based on the average hand size of an 8-year-old.
"By accommodating hands similar to those of an average 8-year-old, we found we could improve accessibility and comfort for hundreds of millions more people without negatively affecting the experience for those with larger hands," Whitaker said.
Reducing the triggers and rounding off the bumpers and triggers, as well as resculpting the grips helped in making the controller feel right in any sized hands. Adding small textural bumps to the grips also gives it a more tactile and no-slip surface.
The XSX controller's internal conponents are a bit more significant, but Whitaker promised that the changes would not affect the gamepad's ability to be used on other devices. The new controller will still function with the Xbox One line and will have better compatibility with PCs, Android, and iOS devices. It will also be back-compatible with current accessories like headsets or Microsoft's Chatpad. However, most of the internal improvements will provide "invisible" benefits.
The controller will feature Bluetooth Low Energy (BTLE), which Whitakers says will allow easier pairing. The gamepad will also "remember" multiple devices, so switching is a much easier process. Of course, BTLE consumes less power, so that means potentially longer battery life. It should also charge faster through its USB-C port.
Another thing Microsoft focused on was improving latency.
"We're introducing a system-wide set of improvements we call Dynamic Latency Input (DLI), which includes specific technology in the console and the HDMI connection to your TV. And it all starts with the controller," said Whitaker.
The controller will send data more often to allow it to essentially sync to the game and monitor's framerate for more responsiveness.
The new controller will launch this year during the holidays either alongside the Xbox Series X or slightly before. That is as long as it is not delayed by the coronavirus hysteria. Whitaker did not have a more specific release date to reveal.