Relive your old-school headshots with ‘The Duke’ controller for OG Xbox gamers

backward compatibility the duke
Retro gaming never seems to go out of style, as each generation waxes nostalgic for the one that came before. From Atari consoles to Super NES replicas, we can fondly recall to the days of 16-color sprites and blowing into your game cartridges. But the latest retro accessory may have many modern gamers asking, “What were they thinking?”

Back when Microsoft first entered the console market, their original Xbox was big and bulky and, well, kind of ugly. The controller was no exception. Dubbed “The Duke,” it was roughly the size of a small pumpkin and features eight buttons and two joysticks surrounding a massive Xbox ‘jewel’ logo in the middle.

Reintroduced at CES 2018, The Duke for Xbox One — its official name — is a near-identical replica of the original, with a few extras for today’s gamers. At the expo in Las Vegas, CNET spoke with Seamus Blackley, also known as the “Father of the Xbox,” about his labor of love.

Blackley, who no longer works for Microsoft, got the nod from his former employer to bring The Duke back from the dead. “I contacted Phil [Spencer, head of Xbox], who was a buddy of mine, and asked, ‘Phil, is this crazy enough to do?’ and some of the hardware guys who were there when the Xbox was on the drawing board said we should absolutely do it.”

“Thank you for being such a force behind making this happen,” Spencer tweeted after the announcement. “Cool to see this coming out.”

One notable feature is the OELD screen embedded in the controller, which plays the original Xbox startup animation when pressed. “I built a prototype myself, because I knew if I said we should put a screen behind the jewel nobody would ever go for it,” Blackley said.

First announced at E3 in 2017, The Duke for Xbox One also sports a USB cable (sorry, no wireless) and two added shoulder buttons. There’s also no memory card slot, like there was in the original. Manufacturer Hyperkin is planning for a March 2018 release, and the controller will run $70.

Blackley says the inspiration for the re-release of this oft-derided accessory was a happy accident when he tweeted a picture of some old controllers he had found in a box. “I discovered to my horror and fascination that The Duke was an object of nostalgia and comfort and happiness and childhood memories,” he said.

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