The Xbox One Elite controller is a $150 piece of next-gen tech designed to outlast and outperform the standard controller.
The controller includes an array of magnetized thumbsticks, directional pads and paddles that can be instantly attached, detached and rearranged to create the sort of controller that feels designed for your hand and your specific needs. The idea was to create something that could stand up to the grueling gaming habits of the hardest of hardcore gamers, and also deliver the level of customization they've grown accustom to with specialized, third-party controllers.
"We designed this from the ground up," said David Prien, programming manager of the Elite Xbox One controller. "The first couple of months we didn't even start hardware, we went to people's houses. We went to pros, top leaderboard players and interviewed them, watched them play eight hours a day, asked them what that level of gaming needed.
"The idea here was taking what was already a great controller, the Xbox One controller, and giving to people the ability to play the way they want to play, not telling them how to play.
What came out of that was a controller with three sets of thumbsticks, two types of directional pads and six paddles for the back of the controller, all of which are magnetized allowing for quick, tool-less assembly and reassembly.
The controller includes a standard directional pad and a multifaceted control pad which is a rounded, slightly curved pad designed to help players find the flow in special moves, like, say, delivering a dragon uppercut in Street Fighter.
"People seem to really like it," said Prien. "They like to roll with it."
The three thumbsticks include a standard one, a domed pair of thumbsticks and two tall thumbsticks designed for extreme precision control. On the back of the controller are four small holes that can each hold paddles. The paddles can be programmed to work for any input on the controller. The controller also has switches for both triggers, allowing you to turn the triggers into "hair triggers," or triggers with half the range of motion.
The new customization options for the controller don't end with hardware, it will also include an app that can run on the Xbox One and Windows 10, which adds a slew of customization options for the controller. The software will allow players to adjust the button functionality and sensitivity of the thumbsticks.
"The software allows you to change the sensitivity; horizontal and vertical, left and right sensitivity," he said. "You can do curves, by changing the sensitivity to be slight at the beginning and harder at the top. Imagine you're sniping, you can have it really sensitive when you're aiming in the distance, but when you hear someone behind you, you can peg the stick and it will turn around at regular speed."
You can also adjust the sensitivity of the triggers in both its regular and hair-trigger modes.
The controller has a new switch on the front of it that allows you to change between two programmed profiles, allowing for on-the-fly switching. The profiles are both saved in the controller's memory, Prien said, to eliminate any potential lag.
While the new controller offers a lot of ways to customize your experience, it doesn't give players using it an unfair advantage, Prien said.
The most obvious changes coming with the Xbox One Elite controller are the customizable buttons, paddles and triggers, but the team also put a lot of work into improving the overall quality of the controller too.
"There are a lot of quality improvements," he said. "The grips are a textured injected material, they're not glued on, they're formed on there. Most people wear out their thumbsticks. These thumbsticks have a second insert, a high density plastic, that won't wear. You take a steel part and put it on a low-friction resin and it won't wear out.
"The top pros, the biggest complaint they have is that they have to buy a new controller every four months because the thumbsticks wear out. First you won't need to do that because these won't and second, if they do the thumbsticks are replaceable."
The controller will come in a case with all of the parts placed in a formed piece of silicon, a USB cable and, perhaps a bit surprisingly, regular double A batteries, not a recharge kit.
Prien said they ship the controller with standard double A batteries to allow people to choose how that want to power the controller.
"Choices," he said when I asked. "People want choices."
The controller will support the charge kit from Microsoft, but not all third-party rechargeer kits will work with it, he said.
The controller isn't set for a launch until October but, Prien said, they wanted to start talking about it now because they feel like they have a lot of customer education to do.
The controller, with its plethora of software and hardware choices, could be the perfect fit for a lot of players, but only if they know what they want in terms of controls and how to adjust the controller correctly.
"The idea is to have a lot of instructional videos," he said. "It can be overwhelming. We want to educate heavily. Thats why we're talking about this so much earlier than we normally would.
"We want it out there, Prien added. "We want you to have an idea of how to use it. I think we're going to have presets. Our ideas is to give some standard ones so that when they pick it up out of the box they're not lost."