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Xbox One pad cost $100 million in R&D - Microsoft

Company tested adding everything from screens to smells before settling on current controller

Microsoft's Xbox One controller looks a lot like the Xbox 360 controller, but it isn't for lack of trying. According to a multi-part VentureBeat feature, Microsoft's research and development spend on just the controller broke into nine-digit territory.

"I don't want to go into specifics," Xbox GM for accessories Zulfi Alam told the site, "but it's over $100 million for sure. Between the tooling of the device, the investments we made in process technology, and the engineering work that went into it, we invested a lot to get this thing right."

While Microsoft was convinced the Xbox 360 was a "best in class" controller, it considered making some pretty drastic changes for the Xbox One pad. Alam and his team built prototype controllers with screens, speakers, touchpads, cameras, and even smell-emitting functionality. Ultimately, they opted against some of the features (like screens and even an embedded projector) out of battery life concerns, or because they weren't appreciated by the core gamers Microsoft used for focus testing.

Even the modest changes that Microsoft ended up with didn't come cheap. The company spent millions on a new button-making technology to give the letters on the pad's face buttons a bit of extra perceived depth to stand out more clearly for people. It also spent months trying to get the new guide button just right, balancing the brightness of the backlight with different materials for the "X" logo, and weighing those results against battery consumption concerns.

"No, it's not a drop in the bucket," Alam said of the expense Microsoft incurred for its new controller. "For any company, when you spend that much money, you have to make sure that the output is amazing. This team bet its careers on this."

While the $100 million price tag is considerable, the "drop in a bucket" characterization might not be so far-fetched. For the fiscal year ended June 30, 2013, Microsoft reported R&D operating expenses of $10.41 billion.

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Latest comments (6)

Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 3 years ago
Seriously??? Its pretty much the same pad as the XB360. So 100 million dollars went into making something thats pretty much the same as the previouse version, probably a bit more comfy to hold and the directional button feels better. You mean to tell me those fancy tactile feed back triggers cost 100 million dollars? Seriously... SERIOUSLY...

But I will hand it to microsoft, when you spend money like that it means you really care that your product succeeds, and at the end of the day, the controller is very comforatible and feels just right in all areas.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Rick Lopez on 21st November 2013 3:11am

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Paul Jace Merchandiser 3 years ago
and even smell-emitting functionality.
I'm so glad they opted out of that. Xbox Live has no shortage of people who's attitudes stink. The last thing I'd want is to have to endure the smell of their actual BO.
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Marty Howe Director, Figurehead Studios3 years ago
dude, they mean for gameplay. For example, imagine your playing Call of Duty, running up a beach, explosions are going off, and the sand is littered with dead soldiers. As you run past each body, you can smell rotting corpse (radius falloff, like a positional sound effect) if an explosion goes off, you can smell sulfur for a brief moment (or something)

Think about the possibilities (food, flowers, the stench of your muzzle flash or a burnt expelled shell casing etc) Maybe in the next generation?

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Marty Howe on 21st November 2013 9:49am

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Show all comments (6)
Keldon Alleyne Handheld Developer, Avasopht Ltd3 years ago
But I will hand it to microsoft, when you spend money like that it means you really care that your product succeeds, and at the end of the day, the controller is very comforatible and feels just right in all areas.
Yes, and by the looks of it (judging from the photo) it seems they fixed the XB360 issue of having a rubbish D-Pad, though common sense could have told them that.
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Farhang Namdar Lead Game Designer Larian Studios 3 years ago
Corporate idiocy, I said it.
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David Serrano Freelancer 3 years ago
The only real problem with the 360 controller was the position of the joysticks. If you have one, hold it and look at the position of your right thumb relative to the stick compared to the left. Your right thumb is more or less horizontal while your left thumb is at a 110 degree angle (approx.). So when you move your left thumb "up" on the joystick, it naturally arcs off to the right instead of 90 degrees straight up. And if you don't constantly adjust for this, it will always throw your aim off to varying degrees.

This seemed like a no brainer fix. If aiming is almost always done with the left joystick, then it should be near the bottom so your thumb will be in the proper position.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by David Serrano on 21st November 2013 6:12pm

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