The Xbox Adaptive Controller is a modular controller base mass produced by Microsoft, and officially supported on the Xbox One, Series S and X, as well as PC. Players can plug in third and first party peripherals, such as joysticks, buttons, and pedals, via USB and 3.5mm Audio ports, to customise how they control their video games.
An adaptive controller and set of buttons to use with it is going to be noticeably more expensive than purchasing a regular Xbox controller, but is still much cheaper and more readily accessible than other custom controller options on the market.
Officially, Microsoft is the only company among the three major console manufacturers to support a disability focused controller for use with its games, which is unfortunate. The Adaptive Controller represents a huge leap forward for gaming accessibility, and in a perfect world, we would see similar support on all three of the major consoles before too long. But, if you’re okay with finding support unofficially, this episode of Access-Ability may be able to help.
So, this week on Access-Ability, we’re going to talk a little about how third party companies may soon bring accessibility controller support to Switch and PS5, third party work arounds that already exist to use your Adaptive Controller on other consoles, and the limitations of creating Accessible Controllers for non Microsoft platforms.
So, first up, let’s look at work arounds that currently exist to use your existing Xbox Adaptive Controller on the Switch and PS5.
If you’re a Switch owner, getting the console to recognise the Adaptive controller is actually pretty simple. There are a few different adaptors on the market today that will cause the Switch to read the adaptive controller as through it was a Switch Pro controller, which when paired with the Switch’s ability to fully remap button inputs should make setting up an Adaptive controller fairly easy.
Of the adaptors I have tested, both the 8BitDo Wireless USB adaptor and the Nintendo Switch Up Game Enhancer allowed the Switch to be registered as a Pro Controller, albeit with the latter only supporting wired play. I will include links to both adaptors in the description of this video.
When it comes to the PS5, things are currently a little more complicated. If you use an adapter such as the Titan Two, designed to allow for Xbox controller support on PlayStation consoles, you can get the PS5 to read your adaptive controller as a PS4 controller, links again in the description. This will allow for navigating menus and playing PS4 games with the adaptive controller, but any attempts to play PS5 specific software will result in an error, saying that the controller is not supported for PS5 games.
Now, this is entirely a choice on Sony’s part. As we talked about last week on Access-Ability, Sony does not allow PS5 owners to play PS5 games with a PS4 controller, which is what it perceives the Adaptive Controller as being. There is no functional reason this needs to be the case, as PS4 owners can remote play to their PS5 using a Dualshock 4, and play PS5 games remotely with that PS4 controller.
In fact, if you use the Titan Two to connect your Adaptive Controller to a PS4, then remote play to a PS5, you can use the adaptive controller to play PS5 games. It is technically possible, if not inconvenient.
Basically, if people lobby Sony to support PS4 controllers natively on PS5, for PS5 games, then that will back door in Adaptive Controller support onto the PS5.
Now, when it comes to PS5, I fully expect that, in the next few months, we will see one of the major third party peripheral manufacturers release a USB device designed to let you play PS5 games with an Xbox Controller. As soon as that happens, which based on past hardware generations should be fairly soon, we will likely see a much easier setup of the Adaptive Controller for PS5 games. Right now, it’s a waiting game.
However, there is another avenue of support that may, in the coming months, allow for disabled gamers to use their existing buttons and Switches to control games on the Switch and PS5, and it comes in the form of third party Adaptive Controller alternatives.
Announced at the start of November 2020, the Hori Flex controller is a third party modular accessibility controller, designed for the Switch and PC, which much like the Xbox Adaptive Controller allows for third party peripherals to be plugged into USB and 3.5mm audio ports to create a custom gaming setup.
The Hori Flex is smaller than the Xbox Adaptive Controller, and features a tripod mount screw thread on the bottom, meaning it can be attached to mounts fairly easily.
Now, the Hori Flex isn’t without its issues, it costs £180 right now, around two and a half times the cost of the Xbox Adaptive Controller, and it’s currently only available in Japan, but it does present another possible future for controller accessibility on consoles. If Nintendo and Sony will not officially support accessible controllers on their consoles, companies such as Hori could step in and provide that as an option.
One thing I am incredibly pleased to see, when it comes to the Hori Flex, is that it features identical input ports to the Xbox Adaptive Controller. This at least means anyone interested in purchasing one, who already owns an Xbox Adaptive Controller, won’t need to buy entirely new buttons with which to set up the controller.
Hopefully, in the coming months, we see Hori bring the Hori Flex to the rest of the world, as well as develop one that works on the PS5 too.
However, there is one remaining hurdle that players will need to consider when playing Switch and PS5 games with either an Adaptive Controller work around, or new third party adaptive controllers, touch and motion controlled games.
One of the reasons the Xbox Adaptive Controller works so well on Xbox consoles is that Microsoft controllers have only ever included buttons and analogue sticks, which are easily replicable inputs with custom buttons. The Switch and PS5 both support motion control, and even require its use in some games, with the PS5 also sometimes requiring use of a touch pad on the controller.
Put simply, players will have to take the time and effort to research games on Switch and PS5 before purchase, if they plan to use an adaptive controller to play them,. Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu for example requires players to mimic a thrown Pokéball when the console is docked, and Astro’s Playroom requires players to touch their controller to control a rolling ball, and neither of these games includes options to avoid those inputs in gameplay.
So, there we have it. You can jerryrig the Xbox Adaptive Controller to work on the Switch and PS5, but with some notable caveats.
I really hope to see Hori step up and fill in the gap left by Nintendo and Soiny’s seeming disinterest in supporting the Xbox Adaptive Controller officially, but I also hope we see Sony and Nintendo take note of the fact there is demand for adaptive controller support on their systems.
Getting the Adaptive Controller to work on Switch and PS5 isn;t going to overnight fix accessibility in games, we need developers to bear in mind accessibility barriers in the software they develop and create alternative control schemes where applicable in tandem, but we are making forward progress regardless.
In a perfect world, any disabled player could use a disability focused controller no matter their hardware of choice. It sucks that right now our options to get there on Switch and PS5 are expensive and involve awkward work arounds, but hopefully, in the coming months and years, things will improve.