Xbox night mode has a weird quirk that competitive gamers need to know (UPDATED)

Man holding Xbox Series X controller in the dark
(Image credit: Shutterstock/Miguel Lagoa)

Update: Scuf has told TechRadar that it is aware of the Xbox night mode bug and has advised users to set the Xbox Guide button brightness of the Scuf Instinct and Instinct Pro above 60% to avoid this problem.

In an email to TechRadar, a spokesperson for Scuf said: “We are aware of this issue and are already working on a fix for our customers in collaboration with our partners at Microsoft

"In the meantime, we advise owners of Scuf Instinct & Instinct Pro to set the brightness of the Xbox Guide button through the Night Shift feature above 60% to avoid any unexpected issues related to this new feature. To our knowledge, this issue only affects Scuf Instinct and Instinct PRO controllers - the Microsoft Xbox Elite Series 2 controller is unaffected."

As Scuf points out, the Xbox Elite Series 2 Controller is apparently unaffected by this bug. We'll have to re-test this soon, but strongly recall being unable to use the additional back buttons when using the Elite Series 2 controller and Xbox night mode at the time of writing.

Original story: If your eyes are particularly sensitive, like mine, Xbox night mode is a handy option that can save your retinas from the rigors of after-hours gaming.

After the sun sets, too much exposure to blue light, searingly bright HDR highlights, and fast-paced action tends to leave the whites of my eyes riddled with red lines. It’s as though someone has drawn a crude picture of the London underground map on my sclera using a marker pen. 

Xbox night mode, then, is a useful tool for those of us who find gaming too much for our eyes to handle after dark. You can disable HDR, customize the light output from your display and even dim the power button on your console and controller. 

However, I didn’t realize night mode would cost me a win when playing online.

It turns out that if you use an Xbox Elite Wireless Series 2 Controller or Scuf Instinct controller – both of which include additional buttons on the underside of the pad in the form of paddles – Xbox night mode can disable this extra functionality.

Xbox night mode settings page

(Image credit: Microsoft)

When you’ve come to rely on reloading, switching weapons, and dodging in Halo 5 using the back buttons, not having them work all of a sudden was like playing with one hand. And needless to say, I sucked.

Initially, I thought my controller had broken or entered some sort of power-saving mode I previously wasn’t aware of. I turned it off and on again (classic) and, after working for a few seconds, the paddles stopped responding to inputs once again.

After dismissing it as nothing more than a ghost in the machine, I noticed the problem happened again the next night, shortly after my TV picture adjusted to the night mode setting I had scheduled for 11 pm. Clearly, Xbox night mode was the culprit.

It turns out that if you set the controller’s Xbox button to dim using night mode, this can potentially have dire consequences. Once I’d changed the controller back to its default setting, the problem went away, but it’s a shame this happens in the first place.

Xbox Series X night mode controller settings

(Image credit: Microsoft)

While I’ve never found the brightness of the Xbox button or console’s power button to be too disturbing when gaming at night, the option to dim them at a scheduled time was something that made sense. However, I’m not prepared to risk being caught short online just to make things a little cozier.

What makes this issue even more curious is that you can manually dim the Xbox Elite Wireless Series, 2 Controller, using the Xbox Accessories App, something which I’ve done plenty of times before. Night mode, though, seems to cause the controller or Xbox to forget it has additional buttons and therefore disables them.

I’m sure this is a quirk that will be ironed out over time, but take this as a warning if you play online: night mode could cost you a crucial win, but at least your eyes will thank you.

Adam Vjestica

Adam was formerly TRG's Hardware Editor. A law graduate with an exceptional track record in content creation and online engagement, Adam has penned scintillating copy for various technology sites and also established his very own award-nominated video games website. He’s previously worked at Nintendo of Europe as a Content Marketing Editor and once played Halo 5: Guardians for over 51 hours for charity. He is now an editor at The Shortcut.