Microsoft controller evolution: from the first Xbox to Series X

Almost 20 years ago, on November 15, 2001, sales of the first console from Microsoft began. During this time, four generations of Xbox came out and many gamepad options. Let’s remember all of them, from the bad experience of the initial revisions to the evolutionary development in recent years.

The first Xbox: Duke and S gamepads
Microsoft decided to create its first console to compete with the GameCube and PlayStation 2. There was little time to develop a gamepad. As a result, a kind of symbiosis of controllers from Nintendo and Sony came out. He was named The Duke (translated as “duke”).

Development leaders James Allard and Cam Ferrari later admitted that they simply copied all the developments of competitors. For example, the analog sticks were found on the DualShock , and the six buttons on the front panel were found on the Sega Genesis. There were only two analog triggers then, and on top there was a slot for a memory card.

Gamers criticized it for its awful design, enormous size and weight. Duke even made it into the Guinness Book of Records as the largest controller. And IGN editor Craig Harris called it the second worst gamepad ever made in video game history.

Microsoft quickly took into account the mistakes and in 2002 released an updated revision, which it called the Xbox S. It first appeared on the Japanese market, and then around the world. The dimensions are smaller and the button layout has changed slightly. The D-pad (cross) now has distinct arrow edges.

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15 years later, Seamus Blakely, who helped develop the first prototype controller, suggested reviving the old Duke after a series of joking tweets. The head of the Xbox division, Phil Spencer, liked the idea. The original design has been slightly tweaked to be compatible with the current Xbox One. The new Duke was released on April 30, 2018 as part of a partnership with Hyperkin.

Gamepad Hyperkin Xbox ONE Duke black

[for PC, Xbox One, wired, USB, vibration feedback]
5 2
New design for Xbox 360
An updated controller was introduced with the Xbox 360 console in 2005. The “Back” and “Start” buttons were moved to the center, and the white and black keys turned into bumpers located above the analog triggers. A headset connector has appeared.

Xbox 360 controller button locations

Another notable change was the lack of a wire. Unlike the competitor DualShock 3 from Sony, developers from Microsoft offered users a choice: either use standard AA-batteries, or buy a branded battery in the Play & Charge Kit.

Play & Charge Kit let you play while charging

The gamepad was originally released in white – it came with the Arcade and Pro consoles. A little later, the Elite version with a black controller appeared.

Xbox 360 Elite was released on the eve of 2006

Microsoft Xbox 360 gamepad black

[for PC, Xbox360, wireless, proprietary connector, vibration feedback, 9 m]
twenty eight
Already in 2007, gamepads of different colors appeared: green, red, blue, pink and others. Also, designer editions of popular games were issued, which later became a tradition for future generations.

Special versions of consoles and controllers for Gears of War, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Star Wars

Around the same time, the desktop version was released. It included a wireless USB receiver (there was also a fully wired option).


In Windows Vista, replacing outdated library DirectInput came XInput . It became the new standard for PC manipulators and is still relevant today. Thanks to this API, a supported gamepad is instantly recognized, whether released by Microsoft or a third-party manufacturer, and no additional configuration is required in games. Previously, you had to change controls separately in each game.

Logitech Wireless F710 Gamepad Silver

[for PC, Android, wireless, vibration feedback]
3099 *
1114 5
In stores: in 31 stores
Also introduced was the Chatpad, an unusual accessory that allowed you to type like a keyboard. The device was experimental and did not receive much distribution.


Xbox one
In 2013, the Xbox One console appeared, and with it a new controller. The layout has remained the same, but the design has become more modern and angular.


Buttons “Back” and “Start” were renamed to “Menu” and “View”. The D-piece has changed slightly, and the analog styles have become slightly smaller in size. The connection connector has turned into a regular micro-USB port. We added vibration to the triggers, but even in 2021, only a few games have support for it – for example, Forza Horizon and Tomb Raider. Developers do not want to adapt their projects for a highly specialized function.

Forza horizon 4 (Xbox ONE)

[0+, racing, sports, simulator, release date: 10/28/2018, Russian interface and subtitles, Blu-ray BOX]
3999 *
36 1
In stores: in 7 stores
Microsoft itself claims to have spent over $ 100 million on the redesign. Over the years, engineers have created hundreds of prototypes. Even the possibility of using a built-in screen and speakers was considered, as well as the ability to emit odors.

Then the gamepad received only minor improvements. In 2015, they added a 3.5 mm headphone jack and the ability to wirelessly update the firmware (previously, you had to connect the controller with a wire).

A year later, along with the updated Xbox One S, they added Bluetooth – now you can connect the controller to any PC or laptop if it has an appropriate module. The Windows versions were originally sold with an adapter.

Microsoft Xbox ONE for Windows Gamepad Black + Wireless Adapter

[for PC, XboxONE, wireless, USB, Bluetooth, mini-jack, vibration feedback]
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Elite versions of controllers were released around the same time. As premium devices, in addition to the high price, they featured four additional petals on the back. With the help of special software, you can assign any actions to them.


The high-end controller has better materials, including ribbed rubber grips and steel edging. The sticks and the cross are interchangeable, and the set comes with a convenient carrying bag.


In the second version, they made a built-in battery and slightly improved ergonomics.

Gamepad Microsoft Xbox ONE – Elite Controller Series 2 Black

[for PC, Xbox One, wireless, USB Type-C, Bluetooth, mini-jack, vibration feedback, 9 m]
220 23
In stores: in 1 store
Xbox Series X and S
The gamepads that are currently relevant appeared along with the nextgen-consoles Series X / S.

Game console Microsoft Xbox Series X 49 999 *
There are very few external changes: they added a “Share” button and again changed the crosspiece, and also used modern USB-C.


But the main differences are not visible to the eye – these are improvements in ergonomics, the shortcomings of which have been identified over the years of operation. The shape has been changed slightly, and textures have been added to the triggers, bumpers and handles. It has become more comfortable to hold.

Microsoft Aqua Shift gamepad blue

[for IOS, Windows 10, Xbox One, Xbox Series S, Wireless, Bluetooth, Xbox Wireless, vibration feedback]
True, the changes did not go to everyone – people with sensitive hands complain of discomfort.

Elite controllers for the new version of the gamepad have not yet been presented, however, the shortage of chips does not allow users to buy even the consoles themselves.