Seamus Blackley, one of the co-creators of the original Xbox, tells the gaming world how he really feels about the oft-maligned first Xbox controller design.
While the Xbox One has finally usurped the PS4 as the console of choice in the past few months, the current rivalry between Microsoft and Sony is a rather tame affair, if even a rivalry at all. It wasn’t that long ago, however, that the original Xbox and the PS2 were at the center of what many critics call the last true console war. It’s almost comical to look at the progenitors of the Xbox One and PS4 these days – both Microsoft and Sony were guilty of making some questionable design decisions at the time, and some of those have gone down in history the same way both consoles successes have.
Perhaps no other design choice from that era was as highly criticized as the original Xbox controller schematics. While Seamus Blackley, one of the co-creators of the original Xbox, unveiled prototype Xbox controller designs that proved it actually could have been worse, the finished product was a gargantuan hunk of nearly ungraspable plastic. Earlier today, Blackley shared more of his thoughts on the original Xbox controller, and they were predictably hilarious:
“It was embarrassingly enormous; politically I had no juice to fix it…they ignored focus tests; I understand you can land a helicopter on it.”
Hard to imagine the original Xbox controller getting a customizable controller lab after remarks like that, isn’t it? Blackley expanded on his sentiment by explaining some of the history behind the controller, which is now referred to as The Duke, stating that the people in charge of its design picked a vendor that couldn’t make small electronics – instead of switching, the design team simply crafted a huge prototype to fit around the large hardware. Blackley concedes that some people enjoyed the controller, but that its design wasn’t universally loved:
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Blackley wrapped up his Twitter tirade by apologizing for venting about the controller, stating that he had received enough flack over it since its release and wanted to finally defend himself. Ultimately, though, The Duke did many things right, and its basic design principles are still employed by Microsoft to this day – it’s just that the presentation and functionality are wrapped in a much smaller package.
The iconic colorful buttons and boomerang-like chassis are still present in Microsoft’s newest Xbox One controllers, and Blackley and the rest of the people involved in creating the original Xbox can be proud that they had a hand in revolutionizing the console controller. It just took more than one try to get it right.