Xbox's Adaptive Controller For Gamers With Disabilities Builds Accessibility Into The Packaging


By: Rudy Sanchez

Microsoft’s Xbox division recently launched a new controller designed for gamers with disabilities that make conventional gamepads difficult to use. The Xbox Adaptive Controller also comes with a feature many wouldn’t think to do—packaging that’s easy to open for the user.

Even for those without disabilities, many package designs are difficult to open, leading to what's been dubbed as “wrap rage," particularly when it comes to heat-seamed clamshells. While this is just a mild annoyance to some, for the disabled, it can be the difference between using a product or going without.

Loops are a design element incorporated into much of the packaging, including the box it ships in, which help the consumer open the package. Even the tape on the shipping box ends in a loop, making it easier to pull off.

The retail box also includes two loops on the tamper-evident tape. Once you've opened the package using one of these loops, you'll find the controller sitting on a shelf. Underneath that shelf is another loop that allows the user to side out the controller. Accessibility was at the forefront of the unboxing experience.

“We leveraged the beta testers early on in the design process,” says Microsoft's Creative Director of Design Kevin Marshall. “User-led data can really shape the ultimate experience. It required us to rethink how we define success on package design.”

As with any packaging project, balancing the needs of all stakeholders featured prominently, particularly when it came to designing something accessible.  “On a strategic level, this program was an interesting, powerful experience," Kevin says.

"It made us think differently about what you do, about what you take for granted," he adds.

Of course, you want your packaging to discourage theft, especially when it comes to gaming gear and electronic appliances. But you don't want it to be a Herculean task opening the box as that would be antithetical to the requirements of this packaging project.

But the design team didn’t compromise, and they were able to secure the package with “break the seal” tape, balancing the needs of the end user with the demands of retailers and product security.

“Great packaging is a series of moments," Kevin says.  "It has to be deliberate. These design moments have to be curated for accessibility, and have to be more meaningful for users.”

With this particular package, these series of moments are evident, from tearing the tape off to the way the lid lifts and the controller slides out. “We look at packaging design as a continual journey,” Kevin says. For Kevin and his team, this project, in particular, was a powerful, exciting journey.

Best of all, they had the opportunity to redefine success. "We learned a lot about our own craft, it was rewarding," Kevin says. "It was super inspiring. We got to shape a new lens and chart our course forward."

"We will be putting front and center these principles and methodologies in the future,” he adds.


Rudy Sanchez

Rudy Sanchez is a product marketing consultant based in Southern California. Once described by a friend as her “technology life coach,” he is a techie and avid lifelong gamer. When he’s not writing or helping clients improve their products, he’s either watching comedies on Netflix, playing the latest shooter or battle royale game or out exploring the world via Ingress and Pokémon Go.