It was easy to take a screen capture on the Xbox One at first. I’d speak the request and Microsoft’s Kinect would handle the rest. But a couple of years into the console’s lifecycle, Kinect faded from popular usage and went into my closet. To take a screenshot, I then needed to tap the Xbox logo on my controller, often pausing the game and spoiling whatever tableau I hoped to capture. The process added enough friction and frustration that I stopped taking screenshots on my Xbox altogether.
This fall, the Xbox Series X will debut with a controller similar to the Xbox One controller, except it adds one button with a single purpose: capturing screenshots and videos. The chiclet-sized button lives comfortably at the center of the controller, in between the start and select buttons. It finally gives Xbox players a feature that has been on every PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch controller for the past seven years.
Describing this silly button, it sounds like such a small thing, and yet while testing the Series X, I’ve realized how much the “small things” have decided where I’ve played video games for the past decade. For example, I don’t play shooters on Switch because I dislike the joysticks, and I avoid racing games on PS4 because I dislike its mushy shoulder and trigger buttons. For years, I’ve dreaded firmware updates on Sony consoles, navigating the baffling menus on Microsoft systems, and connecting to online games on Nintendo devices.
Big exclusives attract me to different video game platforms, but it’s the little things (and the lack thereof) that push me to try other options.
This is why the Xbox One lacking an easy way to take screenshots had an unreasonable impact on whether I bought a game on PS4 or Xbox One. I take screenshots through games as if they’re visual diary entries. A game’s gallery reminds me of my favorite moments, little visual details, funny bugs, and hard-earned accomplishments. Plus, they’re shareable. Which is good for bragging about my successes or, more often than not, laughing at my failures.
Video games aren’t static like film. They’re impermanent. We can’t perfectly recreate any single playthrough, nor will anybody have the same experience with navigating a virtual world. Screenshots and video clips can bottle some of that magic for future appreciation. That’s why a button that snaps a photo warrants precious real estate on every controller.
Now Microsoft just needs to improve the actual picture-taking experience. In the current build, the Xbox Series X provides no visual or audio cue that a screenshot has been captured. It’s like using a camera without hearing the clap of the shutter or the turn of the film. Or, for digital cameras, the beep confirming that, yes, you did take a photo. On PS4 and Switch, we see the little snapshots appear on the screen. I’m not so sure we need anything that obtrusive, but some response from the console would be nice.
But hey, I suppose that’s the easy part. The hard part — getting this dang button on the controller — is complete. Now I have one less reason to part ways from my Xbox, and roughly 300 screenshots of Yakuza: Like a Dragon on my hard drive.