How's the Xbox One controller?

Justin offers some opinions on the new Xbox One controller after spending a little time with it.

Today's Xbox One presentation might have placed a lot of emphasis on the new and improved Kinect, but I for one expect to spend the majority of my Xbox One time with a controller in my hands. At first blush you could be forgiven for assuming that the new Xbox One controller represents little more than a cosmetic reimagining of the Xbox 360 controller. Having got my hands on one though, as well as met with some of the folks responsible for designing it, I'm pleased to report that significant improvements are being made to what is already a great controller.

When looking for ways to improve upon the Xbox 360 controller, Microsoft's in-house design team quickly identified three issues that they were determined to address. They're seemingly minor things that, even after hundreds of hours spent with an Xbox 360 controller in my hands, I'd never really given much thought: the bulky battery pack, the screw holes, and the join between the front and rear pieces of plastic that your fingers often come to rest on. Those three perceived problems are all addressed with the Xbox One controller, and purportedly so are around 40 more.

One of the most needed improvements, I imagine many of you will agree, is a better d-pad. I didn't get to play any games with the new controller, but using the d-pad to navigate between tech demos I can at least report that it's comfortable and--unlike the current controller's d-pad--never gave me cause to doubt how it was going to respond when I used it. That alone makes it a marked improvement over the Xbox 360 d-pads that we've been stuck with for the past eight years, though it remains to be seen how well it will perform with fighting games and such that demand precision.

Similarly, the Xbox One controller's analog sticks improve upon their current-gen counterparts in ways that might not immediately be apparent. Their positions haven't noticeably changed, but they're slightly smaller, they incorporate a grippy "micro texture" around the top, and word from Microsoft is that they have a significantly smaller dead zone, meaning that they can offer a greater range of inputs depending on how far you push them. That's assuming developers take full advantage of the new sticks, of course.

The purpose of the hands-on session wasn't to demonstrate the benefits of the new controller's d-pad or the analog sticks, but rather to show off the rumble functionality of its trigger buttons. Several different demos did a good job of illustrating how rumbling triggers might be used in games; a heartbeat caused one trigger to vibrate more strongly than the other, a gun fired right-handed made only the right trigger jolt, and feeling the starting-up and subsequent revving of a car engine in my fingertips was a convincing sensation on a par with just about anything that I've experienced with the Xbox 360 controller. It seems reasonable to assume that the newly announced Forza Motorsport 5 will put this tech to great use.

Holding the new Xbox One controller, it's easy to take its ergonomics for granted. During a tour of the Xbox Campus, though, I got to meet some of the designers responsible for its creation and check out some of their early mock-ups. The mock-ups are created using a powerful precision 3D printer that takes around four hours to create each controller, and over 200 were made before the design was finalized. I also got to see firsthand the kind of testing that Microsoft is doing to ensure that the new Xbox One controllers are as reliable as they are refined. Robot arms were swinging the controllers up and down as well as moving the analog sticks around, while in another area there were dozens of controllers having their buttons tested by a machine that's designed to push every button on every controller around 20 million times. It's an impressive setup for sure, especially when you consider that said machine can be adjusted to test steering wheel peripherals and other accessories in the same fashion.

The Xbox One controller might have been overshadowed by other new hardware at today's unveiling, but that doesn't mean that its development is being taken any less seriously. I'm excited to put it through its paces playing some Xbox One games at E3 next month, and curious to see if it still has any surprises in store. Be sure to join us as we cover E3 starting on June 10 to find out.

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Discussion

49 comments
SavoyPrime
SavoyPrime

It's a damn shame that the only good thing to have come from the Reveal is the controller.

locoto
locoto

still use controller? how backward

-Vulpix-
-Vulpix-

The controller does look nice, but so far that is the only thing see positive for the system.

N4o7A
N4o7A

I do like their idea of a rumble trigger

thequickshooter
thequickshooter

looks better then the dogshit duelshock controller mainly to the analog stick location and size 

mattcake
mattcake

Love the 360 controller, but considering the shoulder buttons are often used to pop open a wheel menu, it would've made sense to make them a clickable rotating dial instead of a button. Knowing how many clicks to turn it to select the weapon you want would make sense imo. Feedback triggers sound awesome though...

Desynkronic
Desynkronic

Was gamespot always filled with Team Sony an Team PC people every where O_o? why cant we just all get along D: the last thign we want is one console prevailing and forming a monopoly....

Grenadeh
Grenadeh

Good. The 360 Type J controller is the best on the market and hopefully this only improves it. No offense to the DS3 but it is just small and flimsy and breaks easily and the inputs aren't that great, aren't that great at all.

malokevi
malokevi

Sound awesome. Can't wait to get my hands on it!

Legolas_Katarn
Legolas_Katarn

So the only good news about the new Xbox is the controller. At least we can probably buy just the controller for use with PCs.

ogrynn
ogrynn

Nice piece of information but the writing and the way you, Justin, descibe the work of Microsoft on the controller feels more like a product commerical or a company ad. I find myself being annoyed with this even if you provided me with some great tech insights. Next time please distance yourself a little bit more and I would love your articles.

Trickymaster
Trickymaster

How about the rubber on those analog sticks? All of my 360 controllers' sticks got used up after only 3 months. It's ridiculous compared to my PS3 controller which still looks the way I bought it.

enartloc
enartloc

who gives a crap about the controller,CoD will feature a DOG,i'm so excited,day one buy for me!

Prats1993
Prats1993

Its just a shame that it will have no use for M$ non gaming console, PC it is then.

ArataWata
ArataWata

The best part of the conference was the controller.

I can't wait to use it on my PC.

valium88
valium88

Great! I'll be getting on for my PC.

bunchanumbers
bunchanumbers

what I really hope for with the new controller? I need the analog sticks to be tougher. after a month or 2 of gaming hard the sticks are already leaning off to the side, or auto walking, or are loose. the sticks need to be tougher! or easier to replace. Plug and swap sticks would be awesome. Now if you wanna replace a stick on a 360 controller you need to know how to solder and desolder. I'm putting a lot of hope on the X1 controller. 

g1rldraco7
g1rldraco7

Many details are being hidden here, have to wait until E3 to get more of the fill.

PupilsDilated
PupilsDilated

What is the white/silver Xbox emblem on the top center?  Is it a button?  Or just for looks?

Saintier
Saintier

I sincerely hope microsoft changes their mind about some things said at the event (preowned charges, mandatory kinect) as I definately enjoy the xbox controller alot more than the playstation one.

Good job improving and already amazing controller

now please address some of the more important issues :(


OldKye
OldKye

@locoto I've always found it hilarious people don't use it with a controller and a properly made game I can control a character like it's my own hands and feet with one hand behind my back(over my should is actually how I play when leaning back even)

When controlling a game with my body I can be moving like a MMA fighter and a ballerina at the same time and only manage to do things like "walk" in game if I want a work out I'll go for a run or hit the gym I play "games" after I'm done with those.

Akijo
Akijo

@ogrynn The 360 was truly the best controller of last gen, and he is happy about the new controller because it looks great and from what we've seen, it'll be better than the new Playstation controller

Grenadeh
Grenadeh

@Trickymaster That's amazing considering I play the shit out of my 360 and have never ever experienced that problem. Maybe try not dipping it in acid next time?

lilcurt1978
lilcurt1978

@Trickymaster    you have to be lying I have  had the same controller for the past 6 years it just messed up last month. there is no way in hell you are messing them up in three months you have to be throwing them on the ground or something

Dasim64
Dasim64

@enartloc But it's such a beautiful dog. Did you see that tatoo? That's an impressive tatoo.

Toysoldier34
Toysoldier34

@Prats1993 People can get it working for PC just like they have with the PS3 and Wii controllers. Neither company supported their use on PC but users created their own drivers to get them working just fine.

deathstream
deathstream

@ArataWata 

Ha-ha.  So fucking original.  Which of the 3 million comments saying the exact same fucking thing did you copy and paste that beauty from?

lilcurt1978
lilcurt1978

@ArataWata  then why are you on a article about a console makes no sense at all to me oh yeah TROLL ALERT

lilcurt1978
lilcurt1978

@bunchanumbers  I have had my controller for the past 7 years and it just messed up about a month ago what the hell are you doing .

capper64
capper64

@bunchanumbers What do you do to your controllers?! I play games frequently, and in four years of owning my 360 the controllers have never had a problem.

ogrynn
ogrynn

@Akijo Yeah I see that. Nice piece of info on the controller. It will probably exceed our expectations and that is great news but that's not what I'm saying.
@deathstream Yes. I registered on Gamespot in 2005 and I've been reading Gamespot articles on a daily basis since long before that. It's my first go to place for gaming news. I have to give credit to  Justin for the good piece of news but I want better a perspective from a journalistic point of view.  It is a nuance thing and if it doesn't bother you then great for you.

Dasim64
Dasim64

@lilcurt1978 @Trickymaster He may be talking about the bit of texture that comes on the 360 sticks. That wore off for us within a week or so of use and they are perfectly smooth now. I don't see any texture on rubber lasting very long. It just gets rubbed off with use like tread from a tire. I guess it remains to be seen how well these new ones hold up with constant use.

sebman2112
sebman2112

@Dasim64 @enartloc All joking aside did you actually notice how life like the dogs body and facial movements were? basically the most realistic dog I've ever seen in a game. I could think of some children's games that could make good use of animals looking and moving so realistically. 

Getting back to the article though, that new controller actually looks pretty strong.....I sometimes accidentally turn my controller off when I hit the battery door on the 360 controller, so I am glad they addressed that. For the people talking about the joysticks wearing out on the 360 controller, I log a significant amount of time using my xbox 360 controllers both with my 360, and my PC....in three years one controller no longer allows you to run when clicking down on the left joystick, one controller sometimes thinks I'm moving slightly forward when I am not touching the joystick, and the a third controller still works fine, that's not bad considering I completely no lifed a few games to the point where I was ranked in the top 20 on certain game modes. When the rubber wears smooth, I purchase a four pack of rubber joystick grips for something like $3-5, and they work great.

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

@lilcurt1978 Change your tampon, put on your big girl pants, and drink your juice.

You're embarrassing yourself.

wwlettsome
wwlettsome

@capper64 @bunchanumbers I had a controller that after 3 or 4 years didn't come completely back to center on the left analog stick which would cause small continual movement if I didn't pull it back into place. Kind of annoying when playing racing games, etc. Was no big deal as I had another couple of controllers to use so I just moved on to the next one. Considering the many hours of play on that controller I have no complaints on how it held up.

Grenadeh
Grenadeh

@wwlettsome Stop throwing it or trying to use rubber bands on your controller then.