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XBox (Games) Input Devices Microsoft Games

Xbox One Controller Cost Over $100 Million To Develop 206

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-big-or-go-home dept.
mrspoonsi writes "The Xbox One controller went through many radical designs, including a built-in pico projector and a cartridge designed to release smell. Apparently, 'the core base didn't appreciate them,' so these wacky features were dropped in favor of a standard controller. According to VentureBeat, over $100 million worth of research went into the design they ended up using. 'Microsoft’s first tweaks for a new controller focused on the overall size and how it’d fit into hands, golden or otherwise. Using the Xbox 360 controller as a starting point, the engineers would make plastic-molded or 3D-printed prototypes that were each 1 millimeter wider or narrower than the last, testing a full range of up to plus or minus 8 millimeters. “That gave us the ability to test, with actual users including women and children, which width feels best,” said Morris. “We tested with more than 500 people throughout the course of the project. All ages, all abilities.” ... Morris and his team then looked at different thicknesses and shapes of the grips (or “lobes,” as he calls them), plus the angle of the triggers, different styles of analog sticks, and more.'"
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Xbox One Controller Cost Over $100 Million To Develop

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  • Wow... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @08:22PM (#45468695)

    Seriously? OVER a million? It's a nice controller, but really... Maybe this is one of the things wrong with Microsoft (and perhaps many big corps these days), they are not "nimble" and hevent been for at least 20 years. They have a lot to overcome if they want to remain "relevent", and Ballmer's departure is onle a very small part of that.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Microsoft does actually do some good human factors development. The really got it wrong with the very first Xbox controller, but it's been good after that.

      It's ironic though, that they spent a lot of dough to come up with the Start button in Windows 95, and defended it well, only to trash it in Windows 8. That makes me think they do good research, but have lousy management.

      I will not miss Steve Ballmer.

    • by PhrostyMcByte (589271) <phrosty@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @08:34PM (#45468795) Homepage
      And they still end up with a single one-size-fits-all controller. If they just made two controllers to fit more of the broad range of hand sizes, they'd be so much better off for it.
    • by mveloso (325617) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @08:36PM (#45468819)

      The researchers probably found there isn't just one controller - there were many, many good controllers, each for a different audience.

      Why didn't they release multiple controllers, one for kids, one for adults? One for women, one for men? As Prego discovered, there isn't one spaghetti sauce that makes everyone happy; there are many, many sauces, all of which will make some people happy.

      • by Dunbal (464142) * on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @09:04PM (#45468999)
        Or one basic controller and a series of variable-sized outer moldings you can just slip on/off depending on the size you want.
      • by quenda (644621) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @10:12PM (#45469433)

        As Prego discovered, there isn't one spaghetti sauce that makes everyone happy;

        Well, its all the same sauce, but you need different packaging and marketing to appeal to all consumers.

      • ... and install a hollow cube outfitted with kinect 2, that would measure your hands and recommend a suitable sized controller for you?

        $100 million is a lot of money.

        What about addressing the tons of us, who still prefer a KB/mouse combo to thumbsticks on a XBox controller? There are even XBox mouse/kb adapters out there to fulfill this demand.

        • by Kelbear (870538)

          Developers find that their games need to be rebalanced for thumbsticks vs. kb/mouse users. Rebalancing their whole game around the input device takes budget away from other features and from their polish time. Ultimately, developers know they can just balance the game once around controllers(have you noticed how much slower modern shooters are compared to classic PC shooters?), then just release the game on PC for KB/M lovers.

          This ensures singleplayer isn't too hard on controller users, and avoids multiplay

      • by msobkow (48369)

        Meh. They all still use those abortion-from-hell thumbsticks. I hate those things with a passion, "standard" or no. It's the main reason I don't have a console, and no interest in buying one.

        • I hate WASD (and keyboard focused controls in general) with a passion. It sucked in the 80's when home computer/PC developers added keyboard controls to action games for all those elitist PC guys too cheap to buy a joystick...and we still have that mess out of tradition.

          The mouse is a nice pointing device, but the keyboard sucks as a movement controller.

          • Can't say I agree with you. I have a nice keyboard, and for any game that can interpret 2 directions as a combined direction, keyboard offers the fastest direction change and response of any input. Granted, it can't distinguish between different levels of speed or varying small angles of direction, but many games don't interpret that anyways.

            And, for FPS, there is a big advantage to walk left, walk right, walk left, instead of walk left, stop, walk right, stop, walk left.
          • by N0Man74 (1620447)

            I hate WASD (and keyboard focused controls in general) with a passion. It sucked in the 80's when home computer/PC developers added keyboard controls to action games for all those elitist PC guys too cheap to buy a joystick...and we still have that mess out of tradition.

            The mouse is a nice pointing device, but the keyboard sucks as a movement controller.

            You are clueless. You acknowledge how good the mouse is as a pointing device, and yet you think that WASD was popularized because "elitists" that were too "cheap" to buy a joystick?

            The reason that these "elitists" preferred keyboard and WASD was that mouse look is so superior to joystick that it was worth the compromise of using WASD for movement (yes, an analog movement scheme would be preferable but adapting to quick taps is not hard). Also one hand on keyboard gives you easy access to a fairly large nu

            • yet you think that WASD was popularized because "elitists" that were too "cheap" to buy a joystick?

              Yes, those over-privileged upper-middle class guys in the 80's who bought DOS machines and then played demanded that arcade games and action games have keyboard controls because they didn't have joysticks. Mice weren't even a thing then I'm talking about days when there weren't any mouse-look games. the current WASD thing is a relic of that age!

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        Western markets don't seem to like spending money on peripherals. If you look at the Japanese market they have special controllers for all sorts of things, but their consumers are more willing to spend the cash it seems.

    • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ewibble (1655195) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @09:08PM (#45469033)

      It cost over $100 million, the reason is if you have too much money, you spend too much money. There is very little reason for them to be efficient. Why do you think Facebook can offer $3 billion dollars for snapchat, a company that has no revenue. They have more money than they know what to do with.

      Think of it this way if you got a billion dollars today you may go out and by some expensive sport car(s), would they get you from a to b any quicker, safer, more reliably, no, no, and no. You still need to keep to the speed limit, most cars can do that, with that extra power you are probably more likely to crash they are not designed for safety. A car like a Toyota is far more reliable. The only thing you gain is showing people you can afford to spend that much money on a car.

      Sorry about the car analogy.

      Look at these yachts, http://www.celebritynetworth.com/articles/entertainment-articles/10-expensive-yachts-world/ [celebritynetworth.com] number 1 is a fake but number 2. $800 mil for a yacht, that's 8 Xbox controllers.

      • by putaro (235078)

        Too true, though there is a difference between Facebook buying Instagram and MS spending $100M to create a controller. Acquisitions are often paid for in stock, which is inflated funny money. MS paid real money to develop that controller.

      • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @12:36AM (#45469987)

        They have more money than they know what to do with.

        and yet, we have so many unemployed GOOD engineers in the US.

        companies are bleeding money but 'cant afford to pay a living wage' to engineers. gotta have lots more h1b's. "we are so poor!"

        I hate capitalism. its time we found a better system. this one is broken beyond repair, if a company can spend this much on a stupid plastic human interface gadget.

      • by Ravaldy (2621787)

        I say tax write off.

    • Re:Wow... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by SmaryJerry (2759091) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @09:17PM (#45469085)
      Microsoft have teams that are way too large. Give a small motivated workforce of 5 people one month and they would probably come up with five better controllers. Microsoft loves to use big spend and big numbers as if that really means something. But at the end of the day it comes down the person leading the project and whether they can make right decisions or not. Clearly the leader of this project failed miserably if the best they could come up with with $100 million is just a remake of the previous controller.
    • Cocaine and Hookers are expensive.
      • You're doing it wrong. If you pay for the party favors, just remember to do the hookers B4 the favors run out.
    • by NitsujTPU (19263)

      This is actually the opposite of something that's wrong with a company. They used the money that they had in order to fund research in order to produce a better product, and somewhat simply to do new and interesting research. I can't see why you would think that this is a bad thing.

      People cite the "nimble" bit when they mean that a company is stuck in its ways or unable to adapt to change. Doing major research and development is the opposite of that. It's where people who are experts in a field use thei

    • by symbolset (646467) *
      So they tried dozens of different controller sizes, optimizing for the best size that most people could at least use, even if it was not ideal. It never occurred to them to do the obvious thing: sell small, medium and large.
    • Ok, let's set the record straight. These articles are totally misleading. It didn't take anywhere near $100M to develop this controller. What happened is that MSFT spent $100M on an R&D adventure to design, build, and evaluate many different types of controllers before deciding that the current design, with a few tweaks, is the best way forward. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. It's a good use of the their R&D dollars. I bet the actual dev costs for the controller were closer to $20M. And conside

      • Not only is everything you said the most likely story, but there's probably all kinds of other stuff that they took a look at, decided it wasn't ready yet, and will continue looking at for the next generation.

        Sometimes R&D doesn't pay off on the project you're currently working on, but instead presents it's value in some other project.

    • by tjb (226873)

      If they spent 5 years iterating through various designs and dead ends, that's $20M/year. Figure each engineer/designer/program manager at an average of about $200K/yr fully loaded (wages/bonus/stock/benefits/equipment/real estate/etc.), and that's 100 people working on it each year for 5 years.

      I really don't find that terribly unreasonable at a company the size of MSFT, particularly if they were trying some more ambitious designs before settling on the final HW.

  • and a cartridge designed to release smell

    Damn, now I don't get to say: "Your Xbox stinks!"

    • by 6ULDV8 (226100)

      I guess the fart app on my phone is as close as I can get for now. Maybe Xbox Deux will bring wholesome smell-o-vision...

    • by Monsuco (998964)

      and a cartridge designed to release smell

      Damn, now I don't get to say: "Your Xbox stinks!"

      When the game EarthBound came out for the SNES, it came with scratch and sniff stickers and was sold with the tag line "this games stinks".

  • I hate to state the obvious, but no one controller design will be comfortable to such a wide variety of people. Either you have to target the core demographic responsible for the bulk of game sales, or you offer more than one size controller. Anything else sounds like a waste of time.

    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      One thing I thought was interesting about the WiiMote was that it was one of the only (probably the only popular one) controller which was ambidextrous. I'm not aware of anybody who uses it the other way around, but maybe some southpaws could chime in here. Most of them would likely already be conditioned to using left hand thumbstick from years of gaming, and any advantage to holding it the other way around would be lost by having to relearn all their skills.

      I think you really hit the nail on the head
      • It's probably not a coincidence, given that Miyamoto is left-handed. And remember, the Wii also targeted people who weren't already avid gamers, and wouldn't be conditioned.
      • Re:Obvious (Score:4, Interesting)

        by vux984 (928602) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @09:42PM (#45469261)

        One thing I thought was interesting about the WiiMote was that it was one of the only (probably the only popular one) controller which was ambidextrous.

        Interesting point. It was physically ambidextrous in the sense that it was symmetrical, but it was far from ambidextrous.

        Any game that required you to hold it like a gamepad presumed it would be the same orientation, (ie like an NES gamepad). To reprogrammit to work the 'other way' would require both the buttons to be swapped and the d-pad inverted. I don't think many (if any) titles supported that.

        And when held like a remote, it was more ambidextrous than most games, but often the game needed to be designed for lefties, or allow for it.

        Wii Sports for example let you set left and right handed use, for each sport individually. (Kudos to Nintendo there; I do most of the sports left handed, but I golf right handed (and not especially well) due to having grown up in a house with only right handed clubs.)

        But many of the 3rd party mini-games & party games did not allow for left handed use. Usually things were fine, but there'd always be one or two spots where it would go all wrong.

        The one that leaps to mind was a frisbee toss minigame in one of the titles we had.

        The game was expecting a left to right-up flick. So attempting it left handed was a right to left flick, and it went all wrong. Most of the time it didn't even recognize the flick at all, would react half-assed before or after the actual flick. You could hold it upside down, but that was still botched because down was now up. And it would react like you just threw it into the ground.

        I just switched to doing it right handed. Kind of annoying really.

        For what its worth as background, as a lefty I liked the xbox 360 controller (don't have an xbox, but have a controller paired with my PC); and I liked the wii-u classic controller. I FPS with my right hand on WASD, and my left on the mouse. The mouse I'm currently using is a razer deathadder left handed model, with the buttons programmed so that the left mouse button is on the left. (I like the left mouse for the ergo comfort, but after years of using RH mice, my middle finger is my 'left click', and my index finger is 'right'. (The fact that Razer defaults them 'backwards' drives me nuts, as after a reboot, the buttons are backwards until the razer programmability software is loaded, which is retarded.)

        I also tried switching them in the windows mouse control panel, but that had all kinds of side effects... they were right on my desktop, but backwards when I RDP into another unit... which was far more annoying than the couple seconds of stupid at startup.

        If Razer is reading this, save which button is left and right right on the mouse itself. But I'm well and off on a tangent now. :)

        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          I was mainly thinking about how the nunchuck can be held in either hand. It's intuitive enough to just use the wii-mote with the other hand, especially for things where you just point at the screen. On a side note, I remember something about them having to redo a lot of stuff in twilight princess because Link usually held his sword left handed, and this didn't make sense when 90+% of people would be holding the wii-mote in their right hand.
      • Re:Obvious (Score:4, Informative)

        by Ambvai (1106941) on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @12:07AM (#45469877)
        Left-handed writer, right-hand mouse, right-hand scissors, left-hand golfer and... left-handed Wiimote user. It didn't really occur to me that anything was particularly unusual until I was playing one of those dance games that uses the Remote+Nunchuck and I kept failing everything because I was holding them in the "opposite" hand. (Thankfully, a lot of games will either auto-calibrate for that, or have control settings to pick. This one... didn't.)
      • by Cinder6 (894572)

        I'm not sure if I use it any differently than right-handers, but as a leftie I hold the "remote" portion in my left hand and the nunchuck in my right. I take a hit on joystick accuracy, but my aim is even worse with my right hand. What this boils down to is that the Wii remote just isn't a very optimal controller for lefties--at least, until you get used to it. Right-handed people would probably have a slight advantage in the short run, assuming familiarity with a left-sided joystick and holding the remote

        • the games themselves aren't necessarily ambidextrous

          Tangential aside: Link from the Zelda games has always been left-handed, but for the Wii version of Twilight Princess they flipped the entire game left-to-right so it he'd be right-handed like the majority of players.

  • Looks like they didn't make any substantial changes to it besides moving the home button and going with a different design for the D-pad, which was more or less perfected in the SNES/Genesis era.
  • Cool. How many smells fit in one cartridge?
  • by Apathist (741707) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @08:38PM (#45468835)

    "over $100 million worth of research went into the design they ended up using"

    Well, that's not quite true. Perhaps $100M went into designing and testing all the different prototypes they ultimately discarded, and the one they used... but the one that they finally decided upon only cost a fraction of that.

    • by real gumby (11516)

      Indeed, and Microsoft only spend $2 on that disk and box of Windows you bought.

      And come to think of it the price they charge for Widows is outrageous, since I not only have to pay for it but also each bug that was written, then found in testing, and then fixed. And why should they consider the money spent on writing test cases as part of their costs? Outrageous!

      At least with Linux I can get a full refund. Take that, Microsoft!

      • by Apathist (741707)
        Normally I'd agree with the point you almost managed to make, which is that development costs necessarily include dead-ends and mistakes... but in this case they're including the development cost of things like smelly controllers, which should have been an obviously* stupid idea to all involved.

        *Oh, the fragrance of faux-blood/gunpowder/explosions. Just what I wanted in my living room.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @08:49PM (#45468927)

      When I was in a large bleeding edge project, we went through making multiple ASIC, our own processor, PCB design and a large software team and that burn rate was about $1 mil per month.

      I can't believe that a game controller would need 8 years worth of R&D that we were doing into it.

      • by F34nor (321515)

        Waste not want not. No that's not right. Monopolize sodomize? Hmmm better. Seriously as in investor I'd like to kick everyone involved in the balls MANY MANY TIMES.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @08:55PM (#45468955)

      I don't follow your logic. If I have to spend 100M on prototypes for a project to get to a final solution, which itself only had cost of $50, I can't just ignore the 100M and say it only costed me $50 to develop. Without the initial 100M I would have never got to the solution that costs $50.

    • by Ambvai (1106941) on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @12:18AM (#45469921)
      Very likely. If they did a good job testing things, then they had to actually design and produce, in limited quantities, all the actual controllers to be given to be people, or at least have them with interchangeable parts when possible.

      I participate in surveys and focus groups when I can and they can be quite interesting, and expensive on the part of the tester. A few months back, I had the opportunity to try various formulations of a hard cider produced by a major beer company. (I want to say it was Coors, based on the demo packaging, but that's probably wrong.) One at a time, they gave me sealed cans of slightly-different ciders in nondescript packaging with instructions to pour it into a (new) cup, munch on various snack foods, fill out the survey, call the guy in for the next can, repeat, for a total of 8 different versions. For my trouble, I got to keep the half-eaten bag of crackers, drink all the cider I wanted until I decided to leave (or got drunk, I suppose), and 50$ cash.

      Another time, I got a steak dinner, with dessert, and a voucher to some mail order company where I got a free set of pots and pans. What were they actually testing? Steak sauce.

      There's a lot of random stuff in R&D... and paying the subjects are an area that can add up to be intriguingly costly.

    • by s.petry (762400) on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @03:01AM (#45470533)

      "over $100 million worth of research went into the design they ended up using"

      Well, that's not quite true. Perhaps $100M went into designing and testing all the different prototypes they ultimately discarded, and the one they used... but the one that they finally decided upon only cost a fraction of that.

      Even that is a sad joke. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure that they could fudge numbers to make it appear like they really spent an insane amount of money on the controller design. That said, when they design full weapons systems (unmanned drones, and numerous military vehicles) including the virtual prototypes and FEA for less than $100M it should become obvious that someone from Microsoft is trying to bullshit someone for some reason.

      If Microsoft really spent $100M on designing the controller, a whole bunch of executives should be forced to return any bonus checks received and swiftly receive their walking papers. After the first million, they were just peeing away the companies money.

  • by Alex Vulpes (2836855) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @08:52PM (#45468943)
    Apparently it cost SpaceX around $300 million to develop the Falcon 9 rocket. That is one expensive controller.
  • Seems that in much the same way that having too little stifles creativity, so does having too much.

    What they did here, basically, was shit a bunch of times into nice neat little carefully marked boxes, and then picked the one which stank the least.

    I would call this process anti-creativity. Also, coincidentally, how most movies in Hollywood are now made.

  • by LoRdTAW (99712) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @09:09PM (#45469041)

    So it took them 100M to change the basic shape, switch to micro USB for charging and move the Xbox button to the top?

    In the end they settled on the same design with a few changes. That pretty much sums up Microsoft, they cant innovate. It sounds more like they were so desperate to try and outdo the PS4 they threw money at any stupid idea that came along without really thinking it out. Instead of trying to truly be original, they took a half-assed shotgun approach. Smell O vision, really? I understand it takes money to make prototypes but 100M sounds desperate.

  • by Greyfox (87712)
    So they can drop 100 million on controller design but can't be bothered to make a surveymonkey poll to find out that their users still want to be able to sell used games before they shoot their mouth off about it at the opening presentation? The only thing that was more fun than watching that train wreck is the anticipation for SONY somehow managing to fuck up the golden opportunity they've been handed. However they do it, I'm sure it'll be epic. I mean, they could NOT fuck it up, but it's SONY we're talkin
    • "... to find out that their users still want to be able to sell used games..."

      Shhhh - don't tell anyone, but they knew that all along. If they thought their users wouldn't want to there would be no need to cut off that non-residual revenue source, would there?

  • It's sad, really (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @09:18PM (#45469101)

    There's something really sad in looking at all those research groups who fail to get adequate funding for medical research or research to otherwise improve a person's life, and yet a company is able to waste $100 million developing a single component for a fucking GAMING CONSOLE of all things.

    Microsoft isn't a Government department and they can do what they like, but it's just so damn disproportionate the amount of money that goes into research in terms of long-term importance. People are dying because there's not enough research to treat various diseases, but fuck that, the angle permutations of a life-wasting device must be calculated precisely, gimme more money. OK, thanks. Fuck this planet.

    • You don't realize this but at the end of that research it is unlikely you have improved anyone's life. At best you've made a small contribution which will sum to the whole which might eventually, someday, form the basis of a viable treatment for some new issue.

    • by lgw (121541)

      Bill Gates is spending around $1B a year through his charity, much of it to eliminate malaria from the planet. Meanwhile, biotech startups and big pharma R&D groups collectively burn way more than $100 MM/year on research. Healthcare is over 1/6th of the US economy - leave a little for fun, yeah?

      Wow, I can't believe I fell for the "why are we spending money on this when people are dying of cancer" troll that is older than /.'s mod system.

  • It always felt too big for me. And I'm a big guy with big hands.

  • by MacTO (1161105) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @09:41PM (#45469253)

    Even though you can whip together a simple controller for $10 (including labor) from a few switches and bits of wire, doesn't mean that you've accomplished the same thing as Microsoft.

    On the technical end, you're dealing with a fair bit of electronics and software to support everything from reading a button's state to streaming audio from the console. On top of that, they have to consider factors such as ergonomics and marketing. For a company like Microsoft with competitors like Nintendo and Sony, it is best to do their homework first even if it ends up costing a lot more.

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      Even though you can whip together a simple controller for $10 (including labor) from a few switches and bits of wire, doesn't mean that you've accomplished the same thing as Microsoft.

      Of course not. You'd be $99,999,990 better off.

      But in all seriousness what they did was completely unjustified. Spending errr.... wasting that much money on a loss leader is not a wise business decision. I may not accomplish the same thing as Microsoft with $10, but I'd be interested to see how their actual competitors are doing. I wonder how much the PS3 controller cost. Hell I doubt the Nintendo Wii controller cost that much, certainly the Steambox controller didn't, and both of those are more technically

  • by KlomDark (6370) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @10:12PM (#45469437) Homepage Journal

    ...and instead, the Russians just used a pencil.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Myth... some guy approached NASA with an alternative to the hazardous pencil in space.

  • by PPalmgren (1009823) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @10:30PM (#45469497)

    A good area to put research into, in my opinion. Valve may have won the new controller research, but we'll have to wait and see.

    The single most important factor in a console is the control scheme. If the control scheme sucks, it feels like PC console ports do.

  • If you think about it, there should be one ideal basic controller shape. Yet Sony and the XBox One have different controllers...

    I guess it comes down to which 500 people you are using as testers.

Never test for an error condition you don't know how to handle. -- Steinbach

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