Take con­trol

It’s time to play with an all-new spec­trum

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The pos­i­tive side of Mi­crosoft: a con­troller just the way you want it

Given that the con­troller is your point of con­tact with a game con­sole, the fact that Mi­crosoft’s move to of­fer Xbox De­sign Lab – a ser­vice that lets you cre­ate cus­tom con­trollers in all sorts of colour com­bi­na­tions – hasn’t hap­pened be­fore now is kind of shock­ing. The con­sole era has en­dured for nearly 45 years, and in all that time the best we could hope for with con­trollers were a few post-launch al­ter­na­tive colour schemes, gim­micky translu­cent ver­sions, and an un­end­ing stream of rush-de­signed game tie-ins. That’s not to say De­sign Lab, in the wrong hands, isn’t ca­pa­ble of throw­ing out mon­strosi­ties, but that is the beauty of choice: Mi­crosoft claims that eight mil­lion com­bi­na­tions are pos­si­ble.

De­sign Lab lets you swap the colours of the con­troller face, back, bumpers and trig­gers, D-pad, thumb­sticks, face but­tons and even the View and Menu but­tons. There are 15 colour op­tions for the cas­ing and D-pad, a fur­ther eight for the thumb­sticks, and a hand­ful of choices for the but­tons. We’re par­tic­u­larly par­tial to the Glacier Blue and Ox­ide Red cas­ing shades, although there is some­thing glee­ful in cre­at­ing a gar­ish mon­stros­ity to honour the most hideous un­of­fi­cial con­trollers of the PS1/N64 era. Once you’ve fin­ished your mas­ter­piece, you can view it as a 3D model to check that all those com­bi­na­tions are work­ing in har­mony (or not).

The con­troller in ques­tion will be the new Xbox One S pad, which fea­tures tex­tured grips and a slightly sleeker de­sign. Pre­orders are open now for cus­tomers in the US and Canada, with ship­ping set for 2016, but other mar­kets, in­clud­ing the UK, will have to hold on un­til 2017 – although it’s pos­si­ble to play around with the de­sign tools to­day wher­ever you are. At $80, the pads are a lit­tle on the pricey side, and you’ll have to stump up an ad­di­tional $10 if you want a laser-etched en­grav­ing, but given the lo­gis­tics in­volved com­pared to a tra­di­tional unit, the hike isn’t sur­pris­ing. Mi­crosoft hasn’t con­firmed whether the Elite con­troller will fol­low suit, but given its fo­cus on be­spoke cus­tomi­sa­tion and its heavy­weight pric­etag, it’s surely only a mat­ter of time.

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