Xbox and Motion Controls, Will Series X Leave Us Aimless?

If you’ve played any shooter on a Nintendo system in the last decade, it probably had gyro or pointer motion controls. Metroid Prime Trilogy, Splatoon, Zelda, and now Fortnite, Zombie Army Trilogy, Doom, Duke Nukem, Borderlands, and many other third party games are adopting it after the huge success of Splatoon 2, and general ease of use.

Even Sony have adopted this for 2 generations now, though you’d be forgiven for not noticing it. Much like their handheld legacy (just kidding), these features weren’t really used that much nor embraced. But the fact is, the Dual Shock has motion control and it’s used in a lot of big games like Gran Turismo Sport to steer. It’s not used nearly enough and it’s technically very primitive, but the option is there.

Xbox for some reason, have refused to do anything. You would think a company who just released a $150 “Elite” controller would include such a commonly demanded feature, but no. In fact they refused to acknowledge it at all in an official capacity. Until now that is.

I know, it’s just the Australian branch, and a PR person at that, but this little snide remark about Mario Kart not controlling well shows a possible culture problem within the Xbox team. They don’t respond well to it. It’s like when you’re sitting in a meeting with fossil fuel lobbyists, and you bring up Koalas going extinct. There will be a short pause, then a chorus of roaring laughter. Like a Koala without a home, motion controls just don’t seem to have a seat at the table within Xbox.

I’m not saying this to troll the Xbox, I’ve been playing it quite a bit lately. I just want it to be the best it can be. For a console with heavy emphasis on racers and shooters, this superior control method SHOULD be a priority. This is the reason I would rather play something like Doom or Zombie Army on the Switch, even with worse graphics. Despite immensely better graphics on the Xbox, missing this basic feature is hurting it. Borderlands 3 is getting fresh new content on my Xbox One, but I still find myself wanting to play Borderlands 1 on Switch more because of the controls. You can knock “gimmicks” all you want, but I know what I like to play. Gimmicks don’t tend to stick around for more than a decade either.

So what’s stopping them? Is it possible that the entire Xbox hardware team has just not played a Wii, Switch, VR machine or PS4? Perhaps there is a problem with patents or something very technical and corporate standing in the way. Perhaps they are afraid of people remembering Kinect and all the failures it brought. It shouldn’t stop them from sneaking this feature under the radar then, right?

I found this article with a quote from Microsoft from the Xbox One launch in 2013.

“We could have added sixaxis and gyros for tilt and motion but they’re actually not that accurate. We have a lot of history with them and a lot of experience with them with the way we have done the 360 steering wheel. We decided to take a different path. What we did we added IR LEDs to the front [of the controller]. You can’t see them on the front of the actual controller. And in addition to the LEDs we also had reflective material added inside the device, so essentially the system knows in space where the controller is and you are able to bind your profile to the actual controller you are holding in your hand,” said Microsoft’s Zulfi Alam.

So basically, they banked on Kinect sensors and failed. The good thing is that Xbox has seen new leadership since 2013 in the form of Phil Spencer, and his impact has drastically changed the perception of Xbox in the last few years. They’ve embraced accessibility and consumer-friendly policies by releasing a lot of their games on other platforms, for example Cuphead and Ori on Nintendo Switch. They’ve brought many new games into people’s hands with Game Pass. This new focus from Microsoft is actually the reason why I bought an Xbox One, it’s a fantastic console with a strong interface and good gaming environment. Now we are heading into the next console cycle, bringing this great ecosystem into it.

So then, is there a chance Xbox Series X will have motion controls? I fear not because they haven’t talked about it. They have a huge Q and A on their website about the controller, without a single mention of motion controls. That is the main reason I wanted to make this article calling it out before it’s too late. I don’t think they will do anything without pressure, as a lot of insular Xbox gamers don’t really know what they are missing. Even phones have gyro sensors now for Android games. In fact, I can’t think of a single platform that doesn’t have gyro, besides Xbox. It’s a great shame because the Xbox library has so many games that would benefit from it, with some of the best exclusive racers and shooters in the entire industry. Nobody wants to play the next Halo with analog sticks again.

So I ask thee, Phil Spencer, oh god of Xbox. Let me challenge you to a game of Mario Kart and show you what motion controls are all about. If I win, then Xbox Series X will have built in motion controls. If not, I’ll play through the next Halo with stiff analog sticks. Deal?

In the meantime we can sign this petition (not mine), it’s currently at a whopping 52 signatures! Let’s get it to 100 and show there is more demand for this than Kinect.

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