The Xbox 360 had a solid controller, certainly a step up from either model that shipped with the original Xbox, but it had one major shortcoming: its disc-shaped d-pad. The 360 d-pad was so mushy and imprecise that when Microsoft made a new controller for the Xbox One, it went back to a traditional plus shape. Today, Microsoft's provided an explanation as to why the disc shape is returning on the upcoming Xbox Wireless Controller.
In a new post at Xbox Wire, Senior Designer Ryan Whitaker talks about the subtle and not-so-subtle changes being made for the next generation Wireless Controller. Whitaker says the controller's new d-pad is designed with "boosting performance and accessibility" in mind, and while it's not customizable like the Xbox Elite series' magnetic d-pad covers, it has taken cues from the development of those premium offerings:
Building on what we learned from Elite and watching how people use the D-pad, we designed a hybrid to deliver the best of both. It feels great. The slightly deeper dish gives your thumb a nice little "home" to sit in. The angles are finely tuned to give you a good amount of leverage with minimal movement. Gamers will notice a performance boost right out of the box.
In our review of the Elite Series 2 controller, Reviews Editor Mike Williams noted that the Elite comes with the "odd, raised geometrical model" dish pre-attached, with the swappable plus-shaped model stored in the case. New close-up images of the hybrid d-pad show there is a significant difference between the Elite's blocky, concave dish and the raised cross profile in the Wireless Controller's pad. For the sake of platformer fans and fighting game pad players, hopefully the hybrid design has nailed the balance between 8-way swish motions and 4-way precision (with the 360's dish having been, in the opinion of many, not good at either extreme).
If you know you'll prefer a cross-shaped d-pad no matter what, it's worth remembering that the Series X will support all Microsoft-made Xbox One controllers, including the Elite series. With older controllers you'll miss out on the long-overdue share button, USB-C charging, and the advantages of dynamic latency input, but you'll have your pick of pads and the latency improvements being made on the console-side should still apply.
The d-pad details are just one small bit of new info that's been released about the Series X today. Our friends at Digital Foundry went hands-on with the system, found out exactly how big the tower is, got a look at an upgraded Gears 5 port for the Series X, and learned about the Series X's new proprietary storage format cards.
Microsoft is still targeting a Holiday 2020 release for the Xbox Series X, which is also slated to launch alongside Halo Infinite for the Xbox One, Series X, and PC.