Xbox One’s control pad doesn’t look that different from the Xbox 360’s, but Microsoft tried all sorts of weird and wacky ideas while prototyping it.
In an extensive feature on VentureBeat, Xbox general manager for accessories Zulfi Alam said Microsoft built “hundreds” of models.
“We looked at concepts like adding displays to the controller. We looked at concepts like adding smell. We built small slugs of different types of smells that could actually come out of a controller. Like, as you walked through a jungle, you’d smell the flora,” he said.
Microsoft also tried touch pads, speakers and cameras, but found the concepts distracting from the core experience and difficult to engineer.
“You’ve got a great TV with a better speaker than we could ever put in this controller, and it made more sense to [not make players look down at a display], keeping the user’s attention on the TV. We really want them to be immersed in the experience that’s happening in front of them. You’re burning battery life like there’s no tomorrow – not a great idea,” Alam explained.
Microsoft also considered displays, including projectors that would beam visual around the player, but again, felt it was distracting and a battery drain.
The platform holder spent “hundreds of millions” of dollars on the control pad alone.
“I don’t want to go into specifics, 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,” Alam said.
Just getting the face buttons to appear as they do cost millions of dollars, apparently; and Microsoft isn’t so rich that it considers this small change.
“It’s not a drop in the bucket. 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. We were all in,” Alam said.
“When we went in and said we wanted to do this, we didn’t anticipate it was going to be tweaking a little bit of plastic here or there. That was not the intent. My management team said, ‘Either you’re going to make changes, and you’re going to believe in the changes you make, and you’re going to make sure that they’re amazing – or you’re not touching this thing.'”
The Xbox One launches on November 22.