The Xbox One controller is a sumptuously comfortable if conservative piece of kit (barring awkward bumper placement - hopefully we'll get used to that), but Microsoft spent “hundreds of millions” of Dollars experimenting with truly bizarre concepts before settling on the final design. If the R&D division had their way, we might have been able to hear, smell or even see the action projected onto the walls and floors.
Wait, smell the action? Could that ever have been a good idea? Most games have at least one sewer section, after all...
Xbox general manager for accessories Zulfi Alam waxed lyrical about developing the Xbox One's controller in a VentureBeat feature, wherein he discussed some of the exciting features that made it into "hundreds" of prototypes.
“We looked at concepts like adding displays to the controller," he said. "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."
Smelling Gareth Bale's sweaty jersey, Call Of Duty: Ghosts' wet dog and Battlefield 4's stagnant flood water doesn't sound like a particularly attractive offer, to be honest. In fact, the only game I'd really ever like to smell is Flower. Perhaps Cooking Mama for freshly-baked bread. Mmm, freshly-baked bread. I really need to stop writing at lunchtime.
This was just the tip of the iceberg, since Microsoft also experimented with touch pads, speakers and cameras, such as you'll find on the DualShock 4 and Wii U GamePad. However, “each one of these ideas fell down,” due both to practicality, price point and battery life concerns. And, perhaps, them being totally redundant and unnecessary.
“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," Alam explained. "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."
Agreed. Speaking of immersion, Alam also revealed that one of the controller prototypes channelled Microsoft's Illumiroom concept by projecting ambient game footage around the player. Again, this was nipped in the bud due to it being a bit distracting and a major waste of AA batteries.
As things stand, none of these reckless ideas made it out of the Redmond skunkworks, leading to the Xbox One getting a fairly traditional peripheral with a few neat improvements. Upgraded rumble and impulse triggers, even more ergonomic shell and a D-Pad that doesn't completely ruin our lives is probably what we want from a console controller.
I'll bring you a full review of the Xbox One controller soon, but for the record, it feels like it has been sculpted specifically for me. Apart from those damn bumpers. The fun starts this Friday.
What, in your wildest dreams, do you want from a controller? Smell? Projection? Valve's exciting black plastic owlface? Let us know in the comments.