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Leaked Xbox controller could fix the most underwhelming thing about the Series X

September 19’s massive Xbox leak revealed a lot of neat hardware we weren’t supposed to know about. While getting a peek into Microsoft’s ideas for a mid-gen console refresh and even its next-generation console is exciting, the leaked piece of hardware that intrigued me the most is the new Xbox controller, codenamed Sebile.

The Sebile Xbox controller's slide from the Xbox leak.

Also referred to as “The New Xbox Controller” in the leaked Roadmap to 2030 document from May 2022, this Sebile controller includes many neat features that could help an Xbox controller stand out from the competition. While Microsoft’s controllers have all felt great to use since the days of the Xbox 360, Microsoft’s primary controller haven’t innovated as much as the competition in recent generations.

With features like cloud compatibility, haptic feedback, and modular thumbsticks, Microsoft could finally have a controller that feels uniquely Xbox. That is, if plans haven’t changed.

A more ambitious controller

I’ve felt that the Xbox Series X was a very capable and powerful console since I picked one up in 2020, but the most underwhelming part of the package to me was the Xbox controller that came with it. While Sony’s DualSense innovated with haptic feedback and adaptive trigger, and the Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Cons toyed around with IR sensors and HD rumble, the Xbox controller always felt relatively plain by comparison.

I expected Microsoft to add the back paddles from the Elite controllers to the base model, but it did not. Instead, the only improvements were a Share button, which PlayStation’s controller already had, and a D-pad rework to bring it more in line with the Elite controllers.

That’s not to say the default Xbox Series X controller is bad. Ergonomically, it’s one of the best-feeling ones you can buy. It’s durable and even customizable thanks to Xbox Design Lab. I use it all the time while playing games on my PC too. That said, it lacks the standout nature I look for in the latest flagship piece of first-party hardware, which unintentionally made it feel like Xbox lacks the ambition or creativity to evolve the experience of playing a game with a controller.

A black Xbox Series X and controller against a black background.

The Sebile controller could bring back some of the creativity seen in products like the Xbox Adaptive controller to the primary Series X controller. Sebile’s outlined additions sound subtle, but the unique technological capabilities of the controller proposed make it seem a lot more distinct than what’s currently on offer as the basic Xbox controller.

If the final product matches the plan, Microsoft will more closely integrate the controller with its cloud gaming plans. Taking notes from controllers made by Google and Amazon, this leak says that the new Xbox controller will have “Direct-to-Cloud” support that will seamlessly let players connect their controller to Microsoft’s servers to ensure the most minimal latency while playing cloud-based games. As Xbox is backing more games that utilize its cloud technology, this is a sensible addition and also something not found on other home console controllers.

Meanwhile, the Sebile controller will apparently have haptic feedback like the PS5’s DualSense. The outline also mentions “VCA haptics double as speakers,” so it should also provide Xbox developers with a new way to output some audio for their games. The buttons and thumbsticks are slated to be quieter than those in the current modular, which already aren’t too loud; better yet, the new thumbsticks are modular, which should add more customization options.

The Xbox Series X controller on a black background.

Finally, other smaller improvements like a rechargeable and swappable battery, accelerometer gyro support, and a lift-to-wake feature that seems to indicate that players won’t even have to press the Xbox button to turn on the controller make Sebile appear even more distinct. It seems like this controller will be relatively affordable in the realm of game controllers too, with Microsoft aiming for the same $70 price tag of its current specially designed Xbox Wireless Controllers instead of the $130-$180 cost of an Elite Series 2.

Of course, this is all subject to change. Sebile might lack some of the features outlined in this leak when it’s released or be significantly more expensive than expected. Still, if the Sebile controller ends up being a solid product and Microsoft phases it in as the new Xbox controller, it could finally feel like Microsoft is back in the controller innovation game.

According to the leak, the Sebile controller could come out as early as May 2024.

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Tomas Franzese
Gaming Staff Writer
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at Digital Trends, where he reports on and reviews the latest releases and exciting…
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