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Microsoft, why does the Xbox One Controller still need batteries in 2018?

We’re nearly two decades into the 21st century. A lot of technological advancements have been made within a very short space of time. A lot of what is considered modern “commodities” today were merely dreams just a few years ago. But, there are still some archaic designs that continue to linger. Sometimes, it’s deliberate. That’s exactly how I feel about having to buy AA batteries for my Xbox One controller in 2018. Microsoft, seriously—why is this still a thing?

Before you say that I can “just buy a battery pack,” I have. The “official solution,” at that. It’s the ‘Xbox One Play & Charge Kit.’ I bought it alongside the controller. There’s just one little problem, the battery pack recently started developing some issues. I’ve only had it and the Xbox One controller for nearly a year at this point, so I’m a bit surprised about running into issues already. What really annoys me about this is that the Play & Charge Kit for the Xbox One controller is marketed by Microsoft as if it’s some earth-shattering solution to an annoying problem. Yes, it is a solution, but it’s only that because Microsoft itself refuses to adopt the simple standard of actually including an internal battery pack in their controller. I simply don’t understand why. The problem I have with my battery pack it’s been having trouble charging. This issue first came about a few months ago, and gradually got worse. It started where I would plug in the included micro USB cable, but the orange LED would not illuminate. After doing a quick Google search, I found that this issue has affected a seemingly large number of people, as there are several posts across a lot of different forums and websites with folks complaining about the problem. I’ll get back to this point in just a short while.

Anyway, I ended up coming across a rather odd solution from someone on Reddit who was able to get their battery to start charging again by placing a thin piece of cardboard underneath it inside the controller. I tried it, and somehow, this worked. A very makeshift solution, but I was happy that it was at least charging again. But after a few months, the aforementioned issue returned yet again. I spent even more time trying to troubleshoot it. Finally, I came across another suggestion from yet another person experiencing similar issues, and they managed to fix it by completely draining the battery pack (to the point where the controller could no longer turn on). For some reason, this worked for them and for me too.  Clearly, the real problem lies with Microsoft’s poor quality control of the Play & Charge Kit, on top of the fact that the reason it exists is kind of scummy.

Since the Play & Charge Kit is the “official” solution, naturally most people would pick it up under the assumption that it’s the best choice. But, turns out it’s more of a hit-or-miss scenario. Some people have been able to use theirs for years with no problems, while others, like me, end up running into issues within just a few months. What annoys me further is that Microsoft’s troubleshooting page for the product tries to make it seem like any problems with it are just par for the course, saying: If your Xbox One Rechargeable Battery Pack doesn’t charge when you connect the Xbox One Wireless Controller to the console with a USB cable, it might have worn out (as all rechargeable batteries do).

True, all rechargeable batteries do eventually wear out, Microsoft. But, why is it that myself and several others end up running into issues so frequently? Again, I’ve only had my pack for just a year. If this were happening after maybe five years of use, I could understand that. But, the Xbox One hasn’t even been out for a full five years yet and complaints about the Play & Charge Kit have been issued over the course of the system’s life.

This original promo for the Play & Charge Kit heralds it as some type of amazing solution.
It would only be truly amazing if it was actually included with every console/controller. 

The several Google search results from my troubleshooting sessions proved to me that this is a widespread issue that has clearly never been addressed. Microsoft has three iterations of the Xbox One controller (original, S model and Elite), and yet they’ve never opted to have a model with an internal battery pack, let alone an improved model of the Kit itself. Perhaps it should take notes from Nintendo and the Switch Pro Controller. That controller features HD rumble, an NFC reader, and an accelerometer/gyroscope, yet its internal battery lasts nearly 80 hours per charge. And remember, this is the successor to the Wii U Pro Controller. That only had a regular vibration motor, but its internal battery still sported that impressive 80-hour capacity. So, Nintendo has done this twice over, yet Microsoft is still packing in Duracells like it’s the 90s.

Really, it’s the principle behind the whole situation. Microsoft could have easily included the Play & Charge Kit by default with either every Xbox One console, if not the individual controllers. But, no matter how you acquire the controller, (even if you’re shelling out $500 for the Xbox One X), you still have to pay an extra $25 on top of that just for a simple battery pack and charging cable. Rather comically, a lot of rechargeable AA have a higher capacity than the official pack, so not only is that the more reliable option, but it’s also superior.

Remember, the Xbox One controller has an MSRP of $60. If you opt to go the custom route with a Design Lab model, the starting cost for one of those is $70. So essentially, you’ll end up paying nearly $100 for one of these controllers if you also pick up the Play & Charge Kit, and again, it isn’t even guaranteed to work for very long. Considering that Xbox One S consoles can be bought for $200 these days, that’s kind of absurd. Sure, the internal batteries in the aforementioned Pro Controller and even the Dualshock 4 do eventually fail. But, those controllers can be opened up, and those batteries can be swapped out. You don’t even have to be a tech-head to do it—you just need a screwdriver and a few minutes. So, I’m left scratching my head as to why Microsoft hasn’t just gone ahead and done the same thing. As far as I’m concerned, it just boils down to greed and poor workmanship.

I still love the controller itself, at least. Perhaps Microsoft will get it completely right next-gen…let’s hope.

A.K Rahming
Having been introduced to video games at the age of 3 via a Nintendo 64, A.K has grown up in the culture. A fan of simulators and racers, with a soft spot for Nintendo! But, he has a great respect for the entire video game world and enjoys watching it all expand as a whole.

    David Jones is no longer involved with Crackdown 3

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