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Video games provide incredible emotional and mental health benefits and can be a great way to connect to others. But some didn’t have access to those benefits. The video game industry has long ignored the 33 million gamers in America with limited mobility. As a result, gamers with limited mobility would either hack together hodgepodge tools and homemade controllers or had to spend a lot of money on a custom controller. For most, gaming was impossible. A group of gamers with disabilities approached Microsoft and asked them to address the challenges they had playing with traditional Xbox controllers. The Xbox Adaptive Controller originated from a company-wide hackathon. Engineers and designers then partnered with members of the accessibility community during the beta testing to help shape the design, functionality, and packaging of the Xbox Adaptive Controller. The design was chosen to accommodate as many people with limited motion disabilities as possible.

Describe the creative idea

As the brand committed to empowering everyone to achieve more, Microsoft designed the Xbox Adaptive Controller for gamers with limited mobility. With features like a row of 19 ports that connect to external switches, buttons, mounts, and joysticks, it is customizable to make gaming more accessible to all. The disabled community has a saying: “Nothing about us, without us.” So, we collaborated with the disability community to create packaging as accessible as the product it holds. To incorporate accessibility into the packaging design and unboxing experience, we had to consider every touchpoint from visual or material cues to structural elements designed to lead the customer through a logical and seamless unboxing. With tester feedback, we could ensure every detail was right and ensure the packaging fit within the Xbox packaging ecosystem – a true member of the controller family – and didn’t create separation or “otherness” from the Xbox brand.

Describe the execution

The Adaptive Controller’s packaging includes loops, multiple access points, hinges, levers, and ribbons to make it as easy as possible to unbox. The controller features large programmable buttons and connects to external switches, buttons, mounts, and joysticks to help make gaming accessible for people with one hand, no hands, or lack of fine motor control. Designed to be inclusive in every aspect, it’s affordable, extensible, easy to set up and can adapt to each gamer’s specific needs. The design is sleek, clean, and doesn’t stand out as an “accessibility tool” so all gamers now feel included in the Xbox family. To demonstrate the power of accessible technology to level the playing field and make the gaming world a more inclusive place, we gave the device to gamers with limited mobility and filmed their experiences. Their voices and experiences playing with the Adaptive Controller became the backbone of the campaign.

List the results

The Xbox Adaptive Controller entered the market and was on shelves starting in the fall of 2018. Microsoft’s unique approach to the packaging set the new standard on accessible packaging design, while the device leveled the playing field for 33 American million gamers with disabilities. It didn’t just change the way gamers with disabilities played, it changed the entire gaming industry, with major competitors like Google enabling their platforms to be compatible with the Adaptive Controller. The goal was never to sell more controllers, it was to empower people with disabilities and show the world why accessibility matters.

33 Million Gamers Empowered

Invention of the Year 2018 – TIME Magazine

3 Global Patents

$35 Million in Earned Media

246% Increase in Social Voice

#1 Most Effective Super Bowl Ad

1.1 Billion Impressions

879% Increase in #GamingForEveryone

77% Increase in Conversation About Inclusive Gaming

58% Increase in Conversation About Inclusive Design

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