It's been three whole console generations now since PlayStation abandoned the use of replaceable AA batteries in their controllers, the PS3 controller abandoned the use of batteries in their wireless controllers in favor of a rechargeable model. However, almost 15 years later, Xbox has oddly maintained the use of batteries in their next-generation Series X controllers, a decision that has been questioned by many.
Major battery suppliers like Duracell have continually used this to their advantage over the years, frequently including Xbox controllers in their marketing campaigns, leading many to believe some kind of business deal existed between them.
The latest set of Xbox controllers for the Series X and S consoles even came included with Duracell batteries, with no sign of Xbox or Microsoft branding. Xbox's users wishing to charge their controller instead of buying batteries must buy an additional product - the Plug and Play kit - which allows the controller to be recharged.
But why - after so much time - has Xbox never opted to switch to rechargeable models for their controller and follow suit with their competitors?
In a recent interview with Stealth Optional, the UK Duracell marketing manager, Luke Anderson, seemingly offered an answer to that question, saying “There’s always been this partnership with Duracell and Xbox...it’s a constant agreement that Duracell and Microsoft have in place.” Anderson continued, offering further details on the long-standing partnership:
[The deal is] for OEM to supply the battery product for the Xbox consoles and also the controllers’ battery. So that [deal is] going to go on for a while… it’s been going on for a while and I think it needs to go for a while [more].
However, an interview by Digital Foundry with Microsoft veteran, Jason Ronald, last year seemingly refuted this partnership being the reason behind the use of batteries in their controllers:
“What it comes down to is when actually talking to gamers, it's kind of polarising and there is a strong camp that really want AAs. So just giving flexibility is the way to please both [sets of] people... You can use a rechargeable battery pack and it works just like it does on the Elite, [but] it is a separate thing.”
Microsoft recently offered a statement on the matter to MCV/Develop, reiterating many of Ronald's older claims:
We intentionally offer consumers choice in their battery solutions for our standard Xbox Wireless Controllers. This includes the use of AA batteries from any brand, the Xbox Rechargeable Battery, charging solutions from our partners, or a USB-C cable, which can power the controller when plugged in to the console or PC.
WHAT THIS MEANS
The issue of batteries in Xbox controllers has been a matter of contention among fans for some time as most prefer the convenience of recharging a controller, which in turn saves money and benefits the environment by avoiding the disposal of batteries. However, some continue to favor the old-fashioned way of replacing batteries as the batteries start to run low.
The decision to maintain the use of batteries is clearly a lucrative one for Microsoft. They are clearly benefiting largely from their Duracell partnership through additional advertising, among other sources of financial gain. And as most people in this era tend to avoid purchasing batteries as much as possible, the company sells a huge volume of their rechargeable battery kits.
The separation of the battery product from the rest of the controller provides the flexibility for users to choose whichever battery option they prefer, while also generating a huge amount of extra revenue for both Microsoft and battery market leaders. It's very likely this partnership between Microsoft and Duracell simply exists to appeal to gamers as most controller makers switch to rechargeable controllers, the options for partnerships are extremely limited.
Clearly, Microsoft will be maintaining their existing system for controller batteries, meaning those who do prefer to charge their controllers will have to continue to use additional products to do so when it comes to future Xbox controllers.