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Why the Xbox One controller uses batteries & more

by William Schwartz

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By now, I’m sure many of you will have seen, or at least heard, about the Xbox One unboxing. A follow-up video that also featured Major Nelson was covered yesterday by Attack of the Fanboy, dealing exclusively with the new controller and it’s many tweaks.

One of the most common questions, and sticks used to beat the controller with, is; why are Microsoft still using AA batteries in their controllers? Well, a Kotaku interview with Zulfi Alam, head of Xbox accessories and co-star of Major Nelson in the aforementioned video, delves deeper. The full article can be found here, but it is very long, so we’ve hand picked the best bits for you below.

The Argument for Batteries

“We thought long and hard about integrating batteries,” Alam divulges. “Rechargeable batteries have X number of cycles. After those cycles, the controller has to be replaced… after one year of daily recharging, it seems to be losing its charge in a significantly faster timeframe than when it first did coming out of the box.”

He goes on to explain that Microsoft give gamers the option to make the Xbox One peripheral a rechargeable controller if they desire, by using a play-and-charge kit, though this costs an additional $24.99. The inherent advantage of this though, is that if you do become fed up with the low amount of charge your controller is getting, you don’t have to buy an entirely new controller, just a new battery pack. Alam also estimated that AA batteries would give a player roughly 40 hours of playtime but “with rechargeable you have effectively less.”

Xbox One Controller Will Work on the PC, But Not Yet

Also included in the article is a section about portability for PC gamers. Though not directly from Alam, Kotaku say that a Microsoft spokesperson told them that there is still some work to be done. Essentially they say that in order to create a seamless experience for the user, they need to spend a bit more time tinkering to allow the Xbox One controller to work for supported PC or Mac games. Expect to be able to use them in 2014 is the message to take from it.

Rage Proof and Essential

Two additional goals that came out of the many, many tests that they conducted at Microsoft were to make the controller ‘rage proof’, and to keep the additions essential.

The first of these is demonstrated by the shell of the Xbox One controller, “I have to make sure I can still throw my controller and have it not break out on me… essentially things shatter in such a way that it doesn’t break, ” explains Alam. Confusing? Yes.  Contradictory? No; what was meant by this statement was that there is an outer shell of sorts on the controller. This might shatter if the controller is thrown or dropped, but the controller should remain unharmed and unbroken.

As for keeping the controller essential, they experimented with lots of gimmicks for the controller; screens, speakers, even smells. Yes, you read correctly, they tested out smell cartridges within the controller that would simulate burnt rubber, foliage or gunpowder depending on what you were playing. Fortunately, all of these were abandoned because they felt they were unnecessary or even distracting from the core experience.

Does this change your opinion on the Xbox One controller? Leave a comment with your view.

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