Thumbstick controllers have 3D gaming graphics to thank in part for development, Xbox director of product planning Albert Penello recently told Gizmodo.
Speaking with the publication, Penello explained that as 3D graphics became more advanced, developers learned the importance of analog sticks for controlling 3D environments.
"A D-pad is great for many games (well, just about every game up to the early 2000s!) but was a legacy of 2D consoles," Penello said. "As consoles evolved more 3D, analog input became more important. Xbox grew-up in the 3D world. For instance the rising popularity of first person shooters — especially Halo, which we prototyped against early in development — meant we built a controller in a time where 3D was hitting its stride and optimized for those types of games."
With Halo, it became clear that first-person shooters could be played competitively on a console; shooters continue to use similar controls today. Penello added that even platformers and action titles need analog controls for open-worlds.