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Newzoo forecasts 2020 global games industry will reach $159 billion

Posted by | console gaming, coronavirus, COVID-19, Extra Crunch, Gaming, hardware, Market Analysis, Mobile, PC Gaming, playstation, Social, TC, xbox | No Comments

Games and esports analytics firm Newzoo released its highly cited annual report on the size and state of the video gaming industry yesterday. The firm is predicting 2020 global game industry revenue from consumers of $159.3 billion, a 9.3% increase year-over-year. Newzoo predicts the market will surpass $200 billion by the end of 2023.

Importantly, the data excludes in-game advertising revenue (which surged +59% during COVID-19 lockdowns, according to Unity) and the market of gaming digital assets traded between consumers. Advertising within games is a meaningful source of revenue for many mobile gaming companies. In-game ads in just the U.S. drove roughly $3 billion in industry revenue last year, according to eMarketer.

To compare with gaming, the global markets for other media and entertainment formats are:

Counting gamers

Of 7.8 billion people on the planet, 4.2 billion (53.6%) of whom have internet connectivity, 2.69 billion will play video games this year, and Newzoo predicts that number to reach three billion in 2023. It broke down the current geographic distribution of gamers as:

  • 1,447 million (54%) in Asia-Pacific
  • 386 million (14%) in Europe
  • 377 million (14%) in Middle East & Africa
  • 266 million (10%) in Latin America
  • 210 million (8%) in North America

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In spite of an uncertain economy, US video game sales remain strong

Posted by | Animal Crossing, coronavirus, covid-10, Gaming, Microsoft, Nintendo, npd, playstation, Sony, Switch, xbox | No Comments

May marked another extremely strong month for gaming sales, according to the latest figures from NPD. Between software, hardware, accessories and game cards, Americans spent around $977 million. That’s a 57% jump since the year prior and the highest it’s been for the month since 2008, when the country was feeling the strain of the Great Recession.

All of this is made more remarkable by the fact that the United States has been struggling with COVID-19-related pains for months now. This week, another 1.5 million Americans filed for unemployment, bringing the total number to 44.2 million since the beginning of shutdowns. But as countless other venues for non-essential spending have suffered, gaming has thrived.

It’s clear that games are how Americans are choosing to spend whatever sort of disposable income they might have, as they’re stuck at home, away from other humans. And that spending has continued for a few months now, even after Microsoft and Sony have begun hyping their next-generation consoles — both due at at the end of the year.

That, perhaps, is part of why Nintendo continued to dominate console sales with the Switch, in spite of hardware shortages. Animal Crossing: New Horizons remained the top-selling title for the console (and third over all), owing to the online cult it has amassed through social-first gameplay. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Grand Theft Auto V took the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, respectively, on both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

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Microsoft showcases 13 new titles for the Xbox Series X

Posted by | Gaming, Microsoft, xbox, xbox series x | No Comments

With conferences canceled indefinitely, companies are increasingly reliant on online events to hype product launches. As they prepare to release a next-gen console before the end of the year, expect plenty of live streams and blogs from both Microsoft and Sony in an attempt to flesh out all that their respective systems have to offer.

Today, Microsoft took to YouTube, Mixer and Twitch to give the world a better idea of what to expect from the upcoming Xbox Series X release. Recent updates have, understandably, been largely focused on console hardware, as the company attempts to distinguish from the upcoming PlayStation — after all, the systems will likely be launched within weeks of one another.

This time out, however, games were very much the thing. The Xbox team showcased a baker’s dozen of titles this morning, including:

  • Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (Ubisoft)
  • Bright Memory Infinite (Playism)
  • Call of the Sea (Raw Fury)
  • DiRT 5 (Codemasters)
  • Madden NFL 21 (Electronic Arts)
  • Scarlet Nexus (Bandai Namco Entertainment)
  • Scorn (Ebb)
  • Chorus (Deep Silver)
  • Second Extinction (Systemic Reaction)
  • The Ascent (Neon Giant / Curve Digital)
  • The Medium (Bloober Team)
  • Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 (Paradox Interactive)
  • Yakuza: Like a Dragon (SEGA)

The company hasn’t issued specific dates for titles (those will largely be dependent on publisher), but a recent blog post notes, “Our goal remains to launch Xbox Series X and Halo Infinite this Holiday.” Clearly the MS’s language is more uncertain than earlier — after all, these are uncertain times we’re living in.

All of the above titles are “Xbox Series X Optimized,” which means they’ll be able to be played in 4K at 120FPS, load faster and utilize DirectX raytracing among others. Nine of the 13 also use Microsoft’s Smart Delivery System, which saves users from having to rebuy titles, regardless of the console it’s played on.

More info on the above can be found on Microsoft’s blog.

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EA games on PS4 and Xbox One could be ‘upgraded free’ to next-gen console versions

Posted by | ea, ea games, Electronic Arts, Gaming, hardware, Microsoft, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PS5, Sony, TC, xbox, Xbox One, xbox series x | No Comments

2020 and 2021 will be one of the periodic transitional eras in gaming as Sony and Microsoft debut their shiny new consoles, the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. To ease the process (and spur adoption of the next generation), EA may make its upcoming titles free to “upgrade” to your chosen console.

On an earnings call last night, EA COO Blake Jorgensen at the end of his remarks noted a possible effect on revenue “from the games we are launching for the current generation of consoles that can also be upgraded free for the next generation.”

EA declined to comment on the comment, but the meaning seems obvious enough. It likely refers to “cross-gen” games that will appear on both existing consoles and those set to debut later in the year. If you buy the next, say, “Battlefield” game on PlayStation 4, you will have the option to transfer it somehow to the PlayStation 5.

Exactly how this would work is not clear — there will almost certainly be some rigmarole involving deactivating the license on your old copy — but the effect is a positive and consumer-friendly one. People can buy a game, from EA anyway, safe in the knowledge that they can continue to play it even if they buy a new console. That hasn’t been the case, in general, before.

In fact, the whole transition is looking to be a relatively easy one: The new consoles will be backward-compatible with many games from the previous generation; services like online access and monthly free games will cross over; some hardware and accessories will be shared; built-in streaming options mean improved portability.

EA’s apparent commitment to cross-gen upgrades is among the first, though some publishers and developers have floated the idea or declared support for it, pending approval from the console makers themselves. The confirmation could trigger an avalanche of announcements as others hurry to assure gamers that they, too, will provide this option.

Sony and Microsoft are the ones left holding the bag here: While a sale is a sale for EA or Ubisoft, the console makers are under tremendous pressure to show their console launches are successful. (Nintendo, as usual, is pursuing its own agenda independent from the cadence of its rivals.)

Part of that strategy is high-profile next-gen exclusives that people save up to buy alongside the new consoles, providing revenue spikes and platform lock-ins. When a large amount of those sales occur earlier in the year, and technically for the previous consoles, it’s not a good look.

These policies have a way of evolving right up to and beyond the moment of release. Sony clowned so devastatingly on Microsoft’s confusing and limited game transfer policies at E3 2013, the outset of this console generation, that it affected the whole zeitgeist, boosting PS4 sales and forcing Microsoft to reconsider. (You can see me in the video of it; I’ve rarely heard a crowd so excited about something.)

It’s better to err on the side of liberality, it turns out. EA, which has routinely erred in the other direction over the last few years, hopes perhaps to curry favor in advance of a gaming market opening up in new directions. We’ll see if other companies follow suit.

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Microsoft just revealed a ton of new info about the Xbox Series X

Posted by | Gaming, Microsoft, xbox, xbox series x | No Comments

There will be no E3 this summer. And quite frankly, the future of just about every conference for the year looks to be in jeopardy, at best. Understandably, Microsoft is releasing most of the Xbox Series X info online in the meantime. A few weeks ago, it offered some key insights into the next-gen console; today it has come out with far and away its deepest dive yet.

A momentary respite, perhaps, from the news of the world, this morning brought four separate blog posts, a hands-on video and a whole lot of information for developers. Bookmark this glossary post in the meantime, if you need to cross-reference any of the information referenced here or in the original post.

At very least, it will help you sound a bit smarter when you explain all of this stuff to a loved one.

Okay, let’s start with the spec breakdown:

So, a custom 8 core AMD Zen 2 CPU and an RDNA 2-class GPU. “Xbox Series X is the biggest generational leap of SOC and API design that we’ve done with Microsoft, and it’s really an honor for AMD to be a trusted Microsoft partner for this endeavor,” says Corporate VP Sebastien Nussbaum in the post.

Per the Digital Foundry deep dive:

[T]he Series X processor is actually capable of running four Xbox One S game sessions simultaneously on the same chip, and contains an new internal video encoder that is six times as fast as the more latent, external encoder used on current xCloud servers.

That’s coupled with the GPU stuff we already knew about, including the promise of 12  teraflops of processing power, equating to double what the Xbox One X could do and eight times the original Xbox One. There’s Variable Rate Shading (VRS), which allows for the system to focus on given effects on screen and DirectX Raytracing for improved lighting, reflections and other fine touches.

“Without hardware acceleration, this work could have been done in the shaders, but would have consumed over 13 TFLOPs alone,” Xbox system architect Andrew Goossen tells the site. “For the Series X, this work is offloaded onto dedicated hardware and the shader can continue to run in parallel with full performance. In other words, Series X can effectively tap the equivalent of well over 25 TFLOPs of performance while ray tracing.”

Today brought some impressive early gaming demos as well. Gears 5 showcased 60 FPS videos in 4K (double the Xbox One X FPS), improved resolution textures and other details like fog and particles.

There’s a solid-state drive on board with 1TB of storage, coupled with 16GB of RAM and a 4K Blu-ray drive. Around back, there’s what appears to be an HDMI port, Ethernet port, two standard USB ports and an expansion slot. Here’s the Seagate storage expansion module from the aforementioned hands on video:

The controller, too, is getting an overhaul. It ships with a pair of AA batteries (though you can upgrade to rechargeable). Senior Designer Ryan Whitaker says inclusion was a big part of some of the design changes here, as gaming continues to grow with a mainstream audience:

One key area we’re improving is fitting a wider range of hand sizes, especially smaller hands. By accommodating hands similar to those of an average 8-year-old, we found we could improve accessibility and comfort for hundreds of millions more people without negatively affecting the experience for those with larger hands. We did that by rounding the bumpers, slightly reducing and rounding parts around the triggers, and carefully sculpting the grips.

There’s a Share button on board, in an attempt to make it a more social experience, along with design changes focused on making it easier to play older games via xCloud. Microsoft clearly wants to make game play more platform-agnostic, as it moves to more cloud-based experiences.

The Xbox Series X is due out at the end of the year and will go head to head with Sony’s latest offering.

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Microsoft offers a closer look at the next Xbox

Posted by | Gaming, hardware, Microsoft, xbox, xbox series x | No Comments

It’s been a few months since Microsoft announced the impending arrival of the Xbox Series X. The somewhat redundantly named console made cameo during the Game Awards, getting a late 2020 date in the process.

We got at glimpse at the big, boxy design and peek into a handful of features, including the new wireless controllers and backward game compatibility. It didn’t, however, really get into the nitty gritty of what’s going to set the next-gen console apart. Thankfully, MS’s head of Xbox Phil Spencer is back with some honest to goodness specs.

“Xbox Series X is our fastest, most powerful console ever, designed for a console generation that has you at its center,” Spencer writes. “This means a high-fidelity gaming experience enclosed in a quiet and bold design, with the ability to discover thousands of games across four generations, all with more playing and less waiting.”

The headline feature here is, naturally, a new processor. Built on top of AMD Zen 2 and RDNA 2 architecture, Xbox says chip is able to deliver four times the processing power of the Xbox One. The silicon offers 12 teraflops of GPU performance — that’s double the Xbox One X and 8x the original Xbox One. Other notable additions include Variable Rate Shading for improved frame rates and resolution and DirectX Raytracing for better lighting.

Quick Resume is basically what it sounds like, letting players pick up on multiple games, exactly where they left off. Dynamic Latency Input aims to bring more responsive feed back from controllers, by reducing latency. 120fps video will be supported by the console, along with HDMI 2.1, which automatically switches to the lowest latency mode to reduce game play lag.

As noted above, backward compatibility is central, now that Microsoft has a few generations of consoles under its belt. Game Pass is increasingly important in the company’s play moving forward, as it ramps up focus on cloud gaming.

More information is promised in “coming months.” Once again, Microsoft will have a stiff competition on its hands, with the PlayStation 5 currently slated for “holiday 2020.” 

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Xbox Series X is Microsoft’s next-gen console, arriving late-2020

Posted by | amd, Gaming, hardware, Microsoft, microsoft windows, phil spencer, TC, video gaming, xbox, xbox 360, xbox live | No Comments

If you didn’t watch last night’s Game Awards, you may have missed it. But Xbox Series X is the company’s  next-generation console, and will be arriving in late 2020. Thankfully, Microsoft has kindly cataloged all of the images, media and even a little information online. Oh, and we’ll almost certainly be hearing a LOT more about the Xbox Series X before it arrives for the holidays in 2020.

Xbox head Phil Spencer has a pretty long breakdown over on the the official blog. But let’s start with the obvious here. The Series X looks…different. Surely the meme makers are already working overtime on this one, but to my mind, it looks like a more traditional PC or maybe even a router.

It’s tall (around three times as tall as its predecessor), it’s rectangular, it’s black. It’s fairly minimalist. A lot of people seem to be comparing it to a refrigerator, which is fine. Honestly, I think it’s got that working for it. Surely plenty of people are looking for something that more seamlessly blends in with its surroundings.

The last few generations have found consoles transforming from specialty items into catch-all media players, and there’s something to be said for a product that can sit on your shelf, largely undetected. Notably, the blocky design means that the console can be oriented either vertically or horizontally, depending on your spacing needs.

The latest version of the Xbox Wireless Controller arrives alongside the new system, because, well, you’re going to need something to control it with. It’s a bit smaller than the previous version, “refined to accommodate an even wider range of people,” per Spencer.

The buttons are largely intact, with the addition of a Share button for taking screenshots and game clips. The new controllers ship with the system and will be compatible with both the Xbox One and Windows 10 systems.

Speaking of older systems, the Series X is set up to support backward compatibility for all older systems, along with Xbox One accessories. Per Spencer:

Building on our compatibility promise, with Xbox Series X we’re also investing in consumer-friendly pathways to game ownership across generations.

Leading the way with our first-party titles including Halo Infinite in 2020, we’re committed to ensuring that games from Xbox Game Studios support cross-generation entitlements and that your Achievements and game saves are shared across devices.

Spec information is still pretty light for this first pass, but Spencer promises 4K playback at 60FPS (with potentially up to 120FPS) and support for both Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) and 8K capability:

Powered by our custom-designed processor leveraging the latest Zen 2 and next generation RDNA architecture from our partners at AMD, Xbox Series X will deliver hardware accelerated ray tracing and a new level of performance never before seen in a console. Additionally, our patented Variable Rate Shading (VRS) technology will allow developers to get even more out of the Xbox Series X GPU and our next-generation SSD will virtually eliminate load times and bring players into their gaming worlds faster than ever before.

The Series X will also, naturally, have an eye on cloud gaming, in addition to native hardware. Tonight’s unveil also featured a sneak preview of the upcoming Ninja Theory title, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II.

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Logitech accessory kit makes the Xbox Adaptive Controller even more accessible

Posted by | accessibility, Gadgets, Gaming, hardware, Logitech, Microsoft, TC, xbox, xbox adaptive controller | No Comments

Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller was a breath of fresh air in a gaming world that has largely failed to consider the needs of people with disabilities. Now Logitech has joined the effort to empower this diverse population with an expanded set of XAC-compatible buttons and triggers.

Logitech’s $100 Adaptive Gaming Kit comes with a dozen buttons in a variety of sizes, two large analog levers to control the triggers, and a Velcro-style pad to which they can all be securely attached. It’s hopefully the start of a hardware ecosystem that will be at least a significant fraction of the diversity available to the able population.

The visibility of gamers with disabilities has grown both as the communities have organized and communicated their needs, and as gaming itself has moved towards the mainstream. Turns out there are millions of people who, for one reason or another, can’t use a controller or mouse and keyboard the way others can — and they want to play games too.

Always one of the more reliably considerate companies when it comes to accessibility issues, Microsoft began developing the XAC a couple years back — though admittedly after years of, like the rest of the gaming hardware community, failing to accommodate disabled gamers.

Logitech was an unwitting partner, having provided joysticks for the project without being told what they were for. But when the XAC was unveiled, Logitech was stunned and chagrined.

“This is something that, shame on us, we didn’t think about,” said Mark Starrett, Logitech G’s senior global product manager. “We’ve been trying to diversify gaming, like getting more girls to play, but we totally did not think about this. But you see the videos Microsoft put out, how excited the kids are — it’s so motivating to see that, it makes you want to continue that work.”

And to their credit, the team got in contact with Microsoft soon after and said they’d like to collaborate on some accessories for the system.

In some ways this wouldn’t be particularly difficult: The XAC uses 3.5mm headphone jacks as its main input, so it can accept signals from a wide range of devices, from its own buttons and sticks to things like blow tubes, so there’s no worries about proprietary connections, for instance. But when it comes to accessible devices and systems like this, there are often other rigorous standards in place that need to be upheld throughout, so it’s necessary to work closely with both the platform provider (Microsoft) and, naturally, the people who will actually be using them.

“This community, you can’t make anything for them without doing it with them,” said Starrett. “When we design a gaming keyboard or mouse, we engage pros, players, all that stuff, right? So with this, it’s absolutely critical to watch them with every piece.”

“The biggest takeaway is that everybody is so different: every challenge, every setup, everyone we talked to,” he continued. “We had a 70, 80 year old guy who plays Destiny and has arthritis — all we really needed to do was put a block on the back of his controller, because he couldn’t pull the trigger. Then we worked with a girl who has a quadstick, she was playing Madden like a pro with something you just puff and blow on. Another guy played everything with his feet. So we spent a lot of time on the site just watching.”

The final set of buttons they arrived at includes three very large ones, four smaller ones (though still big compared with ordinary controller buttons), four “light touch” buttons that can be easily activated by any contact, and two big triggers. Because they knew different gamers would use the sets differently, there’s a set of labels in the box that can be applied however they like.

Then there are two hook and loop (i.e. Velcro) mats to which the buttons can be attached, one rigid and the other flexible, so it can be draped over a leg, the arm of a couch, etc.

Even the packaging the buttons come in is accessible: A single strip of tape pulls out and causes the whole box to unfold, and then everything is in non-sealed reusable bags. The guide is wordless so it can be used in any country, by any player.

It’s nice to see such consideration at work, and no doubt the players who will benefit from these products will be happy to have a variety of options to choose from. I was starting to think I could use a couple of these buttons myself.

Starrett seemed very happy with the results, and also proud that the work had started something new at Logitech.

“The groups we talked to brought a lot of different things to mind for us,” he said. “We’re always updating things, but now we’re updating everything with an eye to accessibility. It’s helped Logitech as a company to learn about this stuff.”

You can pick up Logitech’s Adaptive Gaming kit here for $100.

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Microsoft announces its xCloud streaming service and a truckload of new games are coming in 2020

Posted by | game streaming, Gaming, Microsoft, project xcloud, streaming, xbox, Xbox Game Pass, xcloud | No Comments

Microsoft has announced a vague intention to launch its xCloud game streaming service sometime in 2020, and dropped a double handful of new titles that will arrive on it and the existing Game Pass subscription. It seems that next year will indeed be the opening battle in the streaming wars to come.

The announcements came at XO19, the company’s Xbox-focused event, which is taking place in London. They seem calculated to take the wind out of Google’s sails; the opening lineup of Stadia, Google’s entry in the game streaming world, was finalized earlier this week and is rather bare bones. Microsoft is hoping Google’s first-mover advantage will be nullified by the expected confusion around payments, features, titles and other issues Stadia is still working out.

Game Pass is currently in a preview period on PC. Although Microsoft did not supply a hard release date, saying only that 2020 is the plan. That year will also bring Windows 10 support, PC game streaming and potentially an expansion beyond Android for mobile streaming.

The price, too, is TBA — Google’s proposition is remarkably complicated, and it will take time for consumers to figure out what they’re willing to pay for, what the real costs are, and so on. So Microsoft is probably going to wait and see here.

But what is known about xCloud is that gamers will get access to all the games currently available on Microsoft’s Game Pass subscription — well over a hundred PC and console titles right now, with more being added regularly. That makes it easier to commit to for a lot of gamers.

New controllers will be supported soon, including Sony’s DualShock 4, which comes with the PlayStation 4; that’s a real olive branch to Microsoft’s arch-rival. And new countries will be brought into the fold soon, as well: Canada, India, Japan and “Western Europe.”

Game Pass will also be receiving dozens of titles old and new throughout 2020, including Final Fantasy 7 through 15, Darksiders 3, Flight Simulator and a bunch of newly announced games such as Obsidian’s new “Honey, I Shrunk the Survival Game” title, “Grounded.”

Several brand new properties and gameplay for known but unreleased games were also teased at XO19. Check them out below:

Everwild is a new IP from Rare that appears to involve a lot of sneaking around a lush forest and either avoiding or interacting with fantastical animals. It’s still early days, but the team wants to create “new ways to play in a natural and magical world.” I’m just here for the solar-powered dino-deer.

Tell Me Why is a new one from Dontnod, makers of Life Is Strange starring a pair of twins with some kind of paranormal connection. Notably one of the twins is transgender, not common among game protagonists, and the company worked with GLAAD to make sure the representation of the character is genuine.

Age of Empires IV got an only slightly satisfying gameplay reveal. Real-time strategy buffs will want more than this, but no doubt they’re excited to see this venerable franchise getting a modern sequel.

You can catch up on the rest over at the Xbox official blog post.

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The Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 is a truly great game controller

Posted by | Apple, Gadgets, game controller, Gaming, hardware, iPad, macbook, Microsoft, Reviews, TC, usb, USB-C, xbox, Xbox One | No Comments

Microsoft’s original Xbox Elite controller was a major step up for gamers, with customizable buttons, changeable physical controls and adjustable sensitivity for serious personalization. The new Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 has just landed, and it offers similar features, but with new and improved features that add even more customization options, along with key hardware improvements that take what was one of the best gaming controllers available and make it that much better.

USB-C

This might seem like a weird place to start, but the fact that the new Xbox Elite 2 comes with USB-C for charging and wired connections is actually a big deal, especially given that just about every other gadget in our lives has moved on to adapting this standard. Micro USB is looking decidedly long in the tooth, and if you’re like me, one of the only reasons you still have those cables around at all is to charge your game controllers.

In the box, you get a braided USB-A to USB-C charging cable, which at nine feet is plenty long enough to reach from your console to your couch. Of course, you also can use your phone, tablet, MacBook or any other USB-C charger and cable combo to power up the Elite 2, which is why it’s such a nice upgrade.

This is big for one other key reason: Apple recently added Xbox controller compatibility to its iPad lineup, which also charges via USB-C. That’s what makes this the perfect controller for anyone looking to turn their tablets into a portable gaming powerhouse, as it reduces the amount of kit you need to pack when you want to grab the controller and have a good option for digging into some iPad gaming.

Adjustable everything

Probably the main reason to own the Elite 2 is that it offers amazing customization options. New to this generation, you can even adjust the resistance of the thumbsticks, which is immensely useful if you’re a frequent player of first-person shooter (FPS) games, for instance. This lets you tune the sensitivity of the sticks to help ensure you’re able to find the right balance of sensitivity versus resistance for accurate aiming, and it should help pros and enthusiasts make the most of their own individual play style.

The shoulder triggers also now have even shorter hair-trigger locks, which means you can fire quicker with shorter squeezes in-game. And in the case, you’ll find other thumbsticks that you can swap out for the ones that are pre-installed, as well as a D-pad you can use to replace the multi-directional pad.

On top of the hardware customization, you also can tweak everything about the controller in software on Windows 10 and Xbox One, using Microsoft’s Accessories app. You can even assign a button to act as a “Shift” key to provide even more custom options, so that you can set up key combos to run even more inputs. Once you find a configuration you like, you can save it as a profile to the controller and switch quickly between them using a physical button on the controller’s front face.

Even if you’re not a hardcore multiplayer competitive gamer, these customization options can come in handy. I often use profiles that assign thumbstick clicks to the rear paddle buttons, for instance, which makes playing a lot of single-player games much more comfortable, especially during long sessions.

Dock and case included

The Xbox Elite 2 includes a travel case, just like the first generation, but this iteration is improved, too. It has a removable charging dock, which is a quality accessory in its own right. The dock offers pass-through charging even while the controller is inside the case, too, thanks to a USB-C cut-through that you can seal with a rubberized flap when it’s not in use.

In addition to housing the charger and controller, the case can hold the additional sticks and D-pad, as well as the paddles when those aren’t in use. It’s got a mesh pocket for holding charging cables and other small accessories, and the exterior is a molded hard plastic wrapped in fabric that feels super durable, and yet doesn’t take up much more room than the controller itself when packed in a bag.

The case is actually a huge help in justifying that $179.99 price tag, as all of this would be a significant premium as an after-market add-on accessory for a standard controller.

Bottom line

Microsoft took its time with a successor to the original Xbox Elite Wireless Controller, and while at first glance you might think that not much has changed, there are actually a lot of significant improvements here. The controller’s look and feel also feel better, with more satisfying button, pad and the stick response, and a better grip thanks to the new semi-textured finish on the front of the controller.

USB-C and more customization options might be good enough reason even for existing Elite Controller owners to upgrade, but anyone on the fence about getting an Elite to begin with should definitely find this a very worthwhile upgrade over a standard Xbox One controller.

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