Xbox co-creator says the console's original controller was 'embarrassingly huge'

Blackley wanted to design a smaller peripheral, but lacked the political pull within Microsoft at the time.


When Microsoft launched Xbox in November 2001, the console shipped with an enormous controller called The Duke. A year later, the smaller "Controller S" replaced it. When a Twitter follower asked Xbox co-creator Sheamus Blackley for insight into the creation of The Duke, Blackley obliged with alacrity by posting a series of tweets.

"The guy in charge of the controller picked a vendor that couldn't make the electronics small, so they made the design huge to fit around it," he said. "The Dreamcast was our favorite console at the time, and it had a big controller that docked a tomagachi. So that made [the size of our controller] seem less insane."

Japanese gamers balked at the enormity of The Duke, which was awkward to hold with their smaller hands. Microsoft responded by releasing Controller S.

Although Blackley understands that many players found The Duke comfortable, he was against the decision to release such an unwieldy product. " It was embarrassingly enormous; politically I had no juice to fix it. They ignored focus tests; I understand you can land a helicopter on it."

Blackley ended his reverie in good humor. "Sorry to vent about Duke, it's just that I took such a volume of shit about it back in the day, I need to let go!"

Several ex-Microsoft developers have been reflecting on the original Xbox as of late. In June, co-creator Ed Fries recalled the day Bill Gates almost cut the legs out from under the concept of manufacturing a console before it could get off the ground.

Long Reads Editor

David L. Craddock writes fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. He is the author of the Stay Awhile and Listen series, and the Gairden Chronicles series of fantasy novels for young adults. Outside of writing, he enjoys playing Mario, Zelda, and Dark Souls games, and will be happy to discuss at length the myriad reasons why Dark Souls 2 is the best in the series. Follow him online at and @davidlcraddock.

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