Xbox removing support for third-party controllers compromises the "play anywhere" experience

Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X side by side
(Image credit: Shutterstock/Miguel Lagoa)

To paraphrase the greatest game developer of all time, I don’t usually make a point of writing about how my disability affects how I play games. ‘But that’s how badly Xbox has f*cked up’.

Recently, Xbox consoles have begun seeing warnings of the coming apocalypse, or ‘error ‘0x82d60002’: that ‘unauthorized accessories’ will be ‘blocked from use’ from November 12, 2023, with the quisling justification being that they ’compromise the gaming experience’. The error message also includes ‘advice’ to return peripherals to retailers and manufacturers.

‘A pointless restriction handed down by an evil corporation with nebulous intent? Sounds alright to me,’ you might say, but disabled users (which, to be clear, includes me) take a rather different view, as it’ll affect various peripherals and adapters from companies such as Brook Gaming, which has committed to ‘developing a solution to maintain product functionality’ in a post to its website as well as Alan Monk’s totem to neo-fascism.

The affected products include both generations of the Ras1ution and Wingman XB 2 converter. In a nutshell, these products allow for peripherals not designed by Xbox to be used on its consoles.  

Limiting options

I suspect that these kinds of adapters are, by and large, used for convenience: ‘I have 57 Dualshocks: what if…?’ Or maybe for plugging in a keyboard and mouse to make Widowmaker actually playable on console Overwatch (I haven’t played since it went free-to-play, so don’t write in if they took her out or whatever). But I use the first-generation Wingman XB (which isn’t prompting the error as I write) to use a DualSense on my Xbox Series S and Xbox 360 consoles because asymmetrical thumbsticks are an affront to my abominable hands.

It can be a bit finicky sometimes: disconnecting during long sessions and refusing to play nice with the ‘Turn off controller’ function, but I love it like a son, and it’s letting me play Rare Replay in peace. But going forward, I might be literally unable to use the console I bought.

Xbox can couch whatever 5D chess game they’re playing in guff about ‘the gaming experience’, but, with this new thing we have now called ‘critical thinking’, ‘literacy’, and ‘research’, Windows Central and Eurogamer have both drawn the following conclusion: in the quest for infinite growth, Xbox wants to expand, and make money from, the Designed for Xbox’ program, which currently includes third-party controllers from manufacturers such as 8BitDo. 

The Microsoft Xbox Adaptive Controller

(Image credit: Microsoft)

The impending block on adapters targeting accessibility also pushes consumers into buying the Xbox Adaptive Controller - a device that, without additional custom hardware, is just a DK Bongo set. Not that you’ll be emulating Donkey Konga anymore, either. I’m not paying $100 just to get going with that when a DualSense works fine for me. It’s an insult. We love accessibility! Not like that, Phil. We meant, ‘within the confines of the Xbox ecosystem’. 

(It’s not known if third-party controllers connected to the Xbox Adaptive Controller will prompt the error, although my guess is they just won’t work. I don’t have one so I can’t test, but I feel like a) I’d have heard about this amazing loophole if it did work and b) $100, when a Brook adapter from a local retailer runs decidedly a lot less.)

Go on, Microsoft, compromise my gaming experience! Turn my expensive rectangle into a paperweight! Yes, haha, yes! 

The supposed and actual justifications for the peripheral block are genuinely pathetic, and I’ve stopped caring. Going ‘Oh, grovel to Brook (or whoever, other adapter manufacturers are available) to refund the product that we broke’ is up there with Don Mattrick’s ‘just get an Xbox 360 if you hate online lol’ for its sheer contempt for consumers.

Reflecting now, I wrote lots of this late at night, and it contained invective about industry figures that people who work at this website actually know. So to get this ‘letter to the editor’ out, I had to go ‘right, why am I angry?’, not just be angry.

The impending peripheral block has reminded me, even cemented, that the games industry has utter contempt for people like me.

And you know what, actually, nobody at Xbox has commented yet, but to me, that’s a vacuum that makes a mockery of Microsoft’s Play Anywhere, inclusive, Taste the Difference agenda, and that’s what rankles. No one involved in the decision seems to have gone ‘What will actually happen if we do this?’.

Inferring malice isn’t helpful, but whether disabled users have been deliberately disenfranchised or not by the move is irrelevant: we have been disenfranchised, and purely in the pursuit of profit. My mind is freedom incarnate, but my body’s a prison, and I’m already depressed enough because I can’t play the new WarioWare. The impending peripheral block has reminded me, even cemented, that the games industry has utter contempt for people like me.

I’ve got the eBay listing ready to go, and the account closure page bookmarked. Honestly, try me. I literally can’t use a standard Xbox controller, but the officially sanctioned solutions that Xbox is trying to funnel me into are just overkill, and that puts me in a very weird position to stick my head up above the parapet and go ‘Hi, I’m a disabled person who plays games’. I feel weirdly illegitimate about it, and it’s deeply tiring. 

Truthfully, it’s that I’m, on principle, sick of being such an afterthought to gaming companies that I have to put extra time and money into figuring out how to even play their products. 

Simply not bothering is an option, so I’m not bluffing about the eBay thing.

For more on accessibility in gaming check out our hands-on preview of the PlayStation access controller.

Luke Hughes
Staff Writer

 Luke Hughes holds the role of Staff Writer at TechRadar Pro, producing news, features and deals content across topics ranging from computing to cloud services, cybersecurity, data privacy and business software.