It’s past midnight, you are in a heated match of Warzone with your friends, and suddenly you can’t hear anything. You look down to see your controller is out of battery, so you scramble through the drawers to find batteries but by the time you get back online, you are dead. PlayStation's players would have never felt this rage but we Xbox players definitely have, so let’s look at why Xbox controllers still use batteries.
Xbox's controllers have always shipped with a pack of AA Duracell batteries. Unlike the PlayStation controllers, Xbox players need to buy a rechargeable battery kit separately. This according to Xbox’s partner director of program management, Jason Ronald, is an intentional decision because, “it comes down to is when actually talking to gamers, it's kind of polarizing and there is a strong camp that really wants AAs. So just giving flexibility is the way to please both people. You can use a rechargeable battery pack, and it works just like it does on the Elite, but it is a separate thing.” He continued to explain that the divide between gamers who wanted rechargeable batteries and AA batteries is at about fifty-fifty.
In the same interview with Digital Foundry in March 2020, Ronald also said that the user of batteries allows for longer shelf life for the controller, as these can be easily replaced while internal cell units - like the ones found in the DualShock 4 on PS4 - eventually wear out, forcing players to buy a new controller. In a country like India, there are shops that will replace the internal DualShock battery for you, but it isn’t official and hence not advisable.
All of this came as a response to a statement made by Duracell UK’s Marketing Manager, Luke Anderson, who argued that the main reason for Xbox to ship controllers with batteries and not a built-in battery like its competition was its deal with Duracell. "The deal is for OEM to supply the battery product for the Xbox consoles and also the controllers' battery. It’s a constant agreement that Duracell and Microsoft have in place. It needs to go for a while more" said Anderson in his interview with Stealth Optional.
Anderson’s theory, as absurd as it sounds, does make some sense because a deal between Microsoft and Duracell does in fact exist, which involves Duracell often tweeting about using its batteries in the Xbox Controllers. In 2020, Duracell also announced a promotion that allowed users of their extra powered battery, Duracell Optimum, to try the Xbox Game Pass for two weeks. The specifics of this deal are still unclear, but Microsoft has consistently denied that they ship controllers with AA batteries because of this deal, but do so to provide a choice to the consumer, which sounds reasonable enough.
Personally, I am a proponent of this decision and primarily use the AA batteries to power my Xbox controller with occasional use of the rechargeable batteries when I’m done switching their orientation to get every last bit of power they can offer.
Microsoft has its official Play and Charge kit that one can purchase online in India, but there are a number of third party solutions as well which come with a docking station, so your controller is topped up every time you start gaming. You can also purchase a pack of rechargeable batteries and a charger and leave batteries to charge overnight.
We have seen a lot of third party peripherals address the issue of battery backup on the console controllers. We have seen small power banks that hook up to the DualShock 4 controller and add a precious few hours of life.
Here is one tip if you have an Xbox controller and run out of AA batteries in the middle of the night. Simply, remove the batteries from its housing and hook up the controller to a power bank via a USB cable. As long as the power bank has juice, you will be able to game. Not the elegant solution, but one that gets the job done.
Just to put the new console controllers into perspective, the DualSense that comes with the PS5 has a battery life of about 10 to 15 hours based on use and the Xbox Series X/S controller can last for upwards of 30 hours when using a pair of good quality batteries.
In other console related news, Sony’s PlayStation 5 finally launched in India last week and now that the console has launched, it is hard to get one from any of the popular online and offline retailers. There is currently no information on when the console will be back, but you can track everything about the PlayStation 5 restock here. You can also check out our review for the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 and a comparison between both the consoles.
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