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XBox 360’s New Controllers

XBox 360

It Just Feels Right

I’ve had my XBox 360 for nearly a year now (having won one in a trivia game at last October’s Ajax Experience conference), and it’s been the best experience I’ve ever had with any Microsoft product…because it doesn’t feel like a Microsoft product. Where most Microsoft “consumer” products make you feel as if they were designed by the “B-team” — the ones who didn’t make the cut for the stuff aimed at corporate customers — the XBox 360 feels right. I don’t, as Danny O’Brien puts it, “feel like I’m eating out of the trash bins outside a cubicle farm”.

(According to Scoble, one of the reasons the XBox is a good gaming console is that their headquarters were purposely located miles away from the Microsoft campus.)

The XBox 360 now occupies a nice middle ground between the inexpensive casual/party-game oriented Wii and the overly expensive grind-away-for-hours PlayStation 3, and the two new controllers suggest that the XBox folks know this and are pressing this advantage.

For the Hardcore: The Chatpad

“Chatpad” controller for the XBox 360

The Chatpad marries the standard XBox 360 controller to a QWERTY thumb keyboard, which I assume will be used for in-game communications and IMing among the more hardcore XBox Live set. They’ve been talking about this for some time, and there’s been demand for this sort of thing, so this isn’t a surprise.

What I find more interesting is the other controller…

The “Big Button” Controller

“Big Button” controller for the XBox 360

The upcoming Scene It? game will be bundled with four of these controllers, which have the standard A/B/X/Y buttons and a different-coloured giant button for each one so you can tell them apart. Unlike the standard or Chatpad XBox controllers, whose design seems to be for the more serious gamer playing alone or as a twosome, these controllers’ design suggest that they’re for ther casual gamer in a more social setting. It’s apparent that the XBox team is learning lessons from the Wii.

When I first saw these controllers, I thought of two things:

  • First, I thought that this would be a perfect opportunity to resurrect the game You Don’t Know Jack, one of the most fun computer games I’ve ever played. The game is simple enough for them to turn it into something you could download from XBox Live, and I think it would be a hit. I’m not the only one; check out the comments to this Engadget story on the Big Button controller.
  • I was also reminded of Microsoft’s trackball for kids, the Easyball:

    Microsoft Easyball

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