Seamus Blackley, affectionately known as the father of the Xbox, announced last June that he had secured the go-ahead from Microsoft to resurrect the brick-like controller with the assistance of accessory and retro-console manufacturer Hyperkin. We've known that Hyperkin has been working on reviving the original Xbox controller for hobbyists since then, but now there are a few tasty details coming out about the controller courtesy of Blackley.
According to an interview with CNET, Blackley stated that the controller would retail for about $70 and release sometime in late March.
Not only that, but the controller will finally fulfill a function its creator intended for it to have from the very beginning. The Xbox logo on the original Xbox controller was supposed to play the Xbox start-up video when it was pressed. That feature got scrapped to save money - not so on this revival version. Additionally, Blackley revealed a unique quirk about that Xbox startup visual that even Microsoft didn't know: It was never a video. Every time someone started up their Xbox, it was a procedurally generated set of visuals.
The Duke will have some changes from the original. It will obviously have a USB cable to allow for it to interact with PC, Xbox 360, and Xbox One titles. The aforementioned screen underneath the central jewel screen makes a second difference. There will also be no slots for memory cards. Finally, it will have an unobtrusive set of secondary bumpers places for the index finger to use while playing more modern games that call for those buttons.
There's a certain strain of incredulity running through the whole process of creating the new Duke controller. It's a market that no one really believed existed until Seamus Blackley happened to tweet about finding an old OG Xbox controller while moving and received an outpouring of nostalgia from fans of the controller. From there, he brought it to Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox, and floated the idea. Spencer reportedly loved the idea and gave the thumbs up despite resistance from elsewhere in the company. Blackley explained it this way:
I don't know a lot of brands that would rerelease an unpopular product from the past ... and Phil, I think correctly understands that it sends a message. He understands that it sends a message about how serious Xbox is about its heritage, and about the fans.
Nintendo and other companies have released nostalgia products but those are ... different types of exercises, and I don't want to criticize them but this is a much purer thing. This isn't a nostalgia trip where you can play all your 8-bit games, this is the place we started from. You can play the most modern technology we've released with the most modern games we've released with this controller.
There is not inconsiderable resistance and politics inside of Microsoft about this. The idea of a retro exercise like this, you get an allergic reaction with the marketing team.
Yesterday, Blackley tweeted out a production model of the new Duke in action, showing its boot up animation in a video.
More details about the controller should be coming on February 1. That info should touch on the particulars of pre-ordering the controller and its specific release date.