Usability Journal Post #10

There have been many, many bad video game controllers. The N64 boomerang looking thing, the Atari Jaguar and 5200 controllers, and the Intellivision Disk controller (pictured above, I mean I don’t even know how the hell that was supposed to be a controller. It looks like a phone) just to name a few. There were many others in the 80’s and early 90’s as well. By the mid 90’s, most video game companies figured out how to make a good controller, and there has been very few bad controllers since then. However, there is an exception to this rule, and it’s the original Microsoft Xbox controller.

This thing is MASSIVE. Before you even begin to attempt to use and press the buttons, the physical constraint of barely being able to wrap your hands around the controller is evident. Good luck trying to press the select and start buttons. Not only this, but the button placement was just plain weird, and didn’t fit the mental model of what other controllers at the time were doing, such as the PlayStation 2 and GameCube controllers. The original Xbox used the “white” and “black” buttons that were placed above the the A, B, X, and Y buttons (the colored ones). These buttons were just strange and didn’t work well and thankfully were not continued on the Xbox 360. Not only that, but those 4 letter buttons just mentioned were placed in a weird angled diamond shape that was hard to get used to.

Another main issue was the convex right analog stick. Why make the left stick concave, which is the preferred style, and the other convex? The right stick made it hard to keep your thumb from sliding off. Lastly, why the hell is the Xbox logo in the middle so damn big? Perhaps, if you forgot that you were playing an Xbox, Microsoft wanted to make sure that you knew every single time you looked down at that massive controller. To see the controller in detail with a review and comparison to other Xbox controllers after it, watch this:

So, how did Microsoft fix this glaring issue with their first entry in the console market? They released a new controller not too long after the original that was much smaller, which can be seen in the above video. That controller wasn’t perfect, but the remaining issues, such as the white and black buttons, were fixed with one of the best gaming controllers ever, the Xbox 360’s controller. All of the above problems were fixed, and the 360’s controller was one of the reasons why that console did so well in that generation of consoles. Hopefully the original Xbox controller will be the last truly bad controller in the gaming world.


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