Xbox Adaptive Controller Review — Full Potential Comes at a Cost

“When everybody plays, we all win.”

A simple message with such a powerful meaning unveiled itself to millions of viewers during Super Bowl LIII. For many physically disabled gamers, the Xbox Adaptive Controller (XAC), along with the Logitech G Adaptive Gaming Kit (AGK) opened new doors to exotic landscapes, beautiful stories, and riveting gameplay.

With the capability to customize every button input and location, the XAC and AGK provide an indescribable feeling of complete control when playing. Yet, while the controller and corresponding buttons are invaluable, the egregious price to assemble an appropriate setup ultimately muddles the hopeful expectation of enabling everybody to play.

On September 4, 2018, the Xbox Adaptive Controller launched, with the Logitech G Adaptive Gaming Kit releasing approximately one year later on November 18, 2019. Each XAC features 22 ports (one for a headset), along with an official app that allows for three fully customizable profiles. Regardless of the game, individuals can create an experience that is wholly unique and physically accessible.

Additionally, the XAC can function on the current generation of Xbox consoles, the next generation of Xbox consoles, and PCs with Windows 10, meaning that the successful accessibility innovation is not tied to one specific device.

An image of the Xbox Adaptive Controller ports. Each port corresponds with a traditional input on a standard Xbox controller.

The companion AGK is solely designed to provide buttons and triggers for the XAC. With 10 buttons (four light touch, three small and three large), two triggers, each capable of being tuned for force, and several velcro pads for positioning. Physically disabled players can choose what to use, as well as where to place each component.

Too often, I found myself struggling with standard controllers, unable to properly reach buttons or comfortably grasp them based on their design. With the AGK, I found a suitable combination of buttons and positions that allows me to easily perform combos with Ryu on Street Fighter V.

Roughly two years ago, I lost the ability to perform intricate combos within fighting games, one of my favorite genres. To perform a simple 5-hit string followed by a super move may seem simplistic to some, but for me, it was a reclamation of independence. Having a progressive disease means watching my faculties continuously worsen throughout my life. To have some of them restored through a device is immeasurable beyond words.

An image depicting the components of the Logitech Adaptive Gaming Kit.

Unfortunately, not all is perfect with the devices. Physically speaking, the XAC and AGK are two pieces of tech that I hope will be supported and mimicked by other companies for years to come. Economically speaking, the XAC and its components are far from accessible for disabled individuals.

If a disabled player is interested in purchasing the controller, they must spend $100. Realistically, that’s not too outrageous, especially considering its overall use and compatibility. However, the initial purchase does little to unlock the full potential. Without other buttons and joysticks, the XAC only features 8 buttons in total.

To effectively cover all bases in terms of buttons and switches, I highly recommend purchasing the AGK. However, this package will cost an additional $100. Currently, this combination of wires, buttons, and switches costs a total of $200. Unfortunately, the expenses don’t stop there, as players will need to spend more money as they still do not have joysticks.

A depiction of me utilizing the Xbox Adaptive Controller, Logitech Adaptive Gaming Kit and Warfighter Engaged joystick. My right hand is using two buttons, while my left is controlling the joystick and several other buttons.

Now, there are several options for purchasing joysticks. Microsoft currently sells two: the PDP One-Handed Joystick, modeled after a traditional Nintendo WII nunchuck, and the Logitech Extreme 3D Pro Joystick, modeled after a flight stick. These will cost $20 and $40, respectively. However, for disabled players, like myself, who are unable to hold or grasp these devices, several organizations, such as Warfighter Engaged, design products that resemble more traditional joysticks.

I ended up purchasing the Ministix-Nu, a device that features a Nintendo Joy-Con stick on a sturdy base. While beneficial for the curvature of my hand, my wallet was begging for mercy after spending $65.

Therein lies the ultimate problem with the Xbox Adaptive Controller. For a controller with the tagline “When everybody plays, we all win,” charging an exorbitant amount of money negates the “everybody” aspect of the device. For disabled individuals on fixed incomes who wish to purchase a set-up like mine, they can expect to spend upwards of $270. If they require additional components, the price significantly skyrockets. If a disabled player is looking to purchase a next-gen console with an Xbox Adaptive Controller, that price equates to almost $1000.

Xbox Adaptive Controller top down view

The XAC and AGK are two of the best accessibility devices on the market for physically disabled players. The buttons and overall customization are unparalleled in the gaming industry. However, those with limited sources of income may never be able to experience the incredible efforts put into these devices. I want to recommend these pieces of tech to everyone. Unfortunately, the economic hardships placed on the disability community are often overlooked, and this is no exception.

*Editor’s note: I was a beta tester for the Xbox Adaptive Controller.

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Grant Stoner

Grant Stoner enjoys running in video game worlds because his legs won't let him do so in real life. You can follow his accessible thoughts and ramblings on Twitter @Super_Crip1994

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