The Xbox 360 controller is the primary game controller for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 home video game console that was introduced at E3 2005. The Xbox 360 controller comes in both wired and wireless versions. The Xbox controller is not compatible with the Xbox 360. The wired and wireless versions are also compatible with Microsoft PC operating systems, such as Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10, and Windows 11.
The wireless controllers run on either AA batteries or a rechargeable battery pack. The wired controllers may be connected to any of the USB ports on the console, or to an attached USB hub.
The Xbox 360 controller has the same basic familiar button layout as the Controller S except that a few of the auxiliary buttons have been moved. The “back” and “start” buttons have been moved to a more central position on the face of the controller, and the “white” and “black” buttons have been removed and replaced with two new bumpers that are positioned over the analog triggers on the back of the controller. The controller has a 2.5 mm TRS connector on the front, allowing users to connect a headset for voice communication. It also features a proprietary serial connector (which is split into 2 parts on either side of the headset connector) for use with additional accessories, such as the chatpad.
On August 31, 2010, Microsoft’s Larry Hryb (a.k.a. Major Nelson) revealed a new design of the Xbox 360 controller set to replace the Wireless controller bundled with the Play & Charge Kit. Among small changes such as the shape of the analog stick tops and grey-colored face buttons, the new controller features an adjustable directional pad which can be changed between a disc type D-pad or a plus shaped D-pad. The control pad was released in North America exclusively with Play & Charge Kits on November 9, 2010, and was released in Europe during February 2011.
The Xbox 360 controller provides a standard USB Human interface device software interface, but is designed for the Microsoft XInput interface library. Although many PC video games support the XInput library, some games might not work with this controller.
A standard Xbox 360 controller features eleven digital buttons, two analog triggers, two analog sticks and a digital D-pad. The right face of the controller features four digital action buttons: a green button, red button, blue button, and yellow button. The lower right houses the right analog stick, in lower left is a digital D-pad and on the left face is the left analog stick. Both analog sticks can also be clicked in to activate a digital button beneath. In the center of the controller face are digital “Start”, “Back” and “Guide” buttons. The “Guide” (more commonly known as simply the “Xbox”) button is labelled with the Xbox logo, and is used to turn on the console/controller and to access the guide menu. It is also surrounded by the “ring of light”, which indicates the controller number, as well as flashing when connecting and to provide notifications. The left and right “shoulders” each feature a digital shoulder button, or “bumper”, and an analog trigger.
Wireless controllers also feature an additional “connect” button located between the “bumpers” to facilitate syncing with the console.
Wired controllers are available in white (sold separately and bundled with the Core consoles) and black (Xbox 360 S color scheme) along with the limited edition TRON controllers. However, wireless controllers are available in numerous different colors including:
The Xbox 360 controller has a guide button in the center of its face that provides a new functionality. This button is surrounded by a ring of lights divided into four quadrants that provide gamers with different types of information during game play. For instance, during a split screen multiplayer match, a particular quadrant will light up to indicate to a player which part of the screen they are playing on at that time. In this case, when the user pushes the button, they access the Xbox guide; a menu which provides access to features like messaging friends, downloading content, voice chat and customizing soundtracks, while staying in the game. The Guide button also allows users to turn off the controller or the console by holding the button for a few seconds (rather than simply pressing it).
The Rechargeable Battery Pack is a nickel metal hydride (NiMH) battery pack, which provides up to 24 hours of continuous gaming for the wireless controller. It is an alternative to disposable AA batteries, which differ slightly in voltage and have higher disposal costs (financial and environmental). It ships as part of, and can be charged by, the Play & Charge Kit and the Quick Charge Kit. To fully charge the battery pack takes approximately 2 hours with the Quick Charge Kit; the Play & Charge Kit takes longer (and depends on whether the controller is being used). An upgraded, 35-hour version is included with improved Play & Charge Kits and “transforming D-pad” controllers, while a 40-hour version is included with the improved Quick Charge Kit.
The Wireless Gaming Receiver (sold as “Crossfire Wireless Gaming Receiver” in the UK) allows wireless Xbox 360 accessories, such as wireless gamepads, racing wheels and headsets, to be used on a Windows-based PC. The device acts in a similar manner to an Xbox 360, allowing up to 4 controllers and 4 headsets at a time to be connected to the receiver. The device has a 30-foot (10 meter) range and a six-foot (2 meter) USB cable. It is specifically designed to work with games bearing the “Games for Windows” logo, but will function with most games that permit a standard PC gamepad. The official Xbox website noted that the adapter will work with “all future wireless devices”.
The Messenger Kit consists of a wired Xbox 360 headset and a small keyboard known as the “Chatpad”. The Chatpad connects to the front of the controller and may be used for any standard text input on the console. It is not currently compatible with the wireless gaming receiver.
The United States Navy has announced that it plans to use Xbox 360 controllers to control periscopes on new Virginia-class submarines, for both cost and familiarity reasons.
The Xbox 360 controller received positive reviews when it was released. Before then, as IGN stated, the original Xbox controller was “huge, ugly, cheap, and uncomfortable” and concluded to be an “abomination”. Many of these problems were corrected with Microsoft’s releases of the Xbox controller S and then the Xbox 360 controller. IGN credited the Xbox 360 controller for its being one of “the most ergonomically comfortable console controllers around”. It was also praised for its improved button placement, its functioning logo as a button, and Microsoft’s choice of bottom-mounting headset ports as opposed to top-mounting them so as to minimize snagged wire problems.