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Microsoft Denies Cutting Secret Deal With Duracell Over Xbox Controllers

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Last week, a report surfaced claiming that Microsoft and Duracell have a secret agreement between them in which Microsoft agrees to keep AA batteries as the default power standard for its Xbox controllers. Microsoft denied the rumors, which began when Duracell UK’s marketing manager, Luke Anderson, referred to a deal between the two companies:

There’s always been this partnership with Duracell and Xbox… It’s a constant agreement that Duracell and Microsoft have in place… [The deal is] for OEM to supply the battery product for the Xbox consoles and also the controllers’ battery.

This has been broadly read across the internet to mean that Microsoft and Duracell have some kind of agreement in which Microsoft agrees to keep traditional AA batteries as the default solution for its controllers so that Duracell will… cut it a good deal on a couple of AA batteries + some console parts?

This objectively makes no sense, and Microsoft is far from the only company to ship Duracell batteries in its hardware. Since Microsoft doesn’t manufacture batteries, it needs to partner with a company if it wants to ship hardware with prepacked AAs. The company doesn’t send purchasing agents to Wal-Mart to grab whatever AA’s are the cheapest; it has a pre-existing agreement with Duracell to provide those products.

The Xbox Elite Wireless Controller and Controller Series 2 have built-in batteries.

When contacted, a Microsoft spokesperson released the following statement:

We intentionally offer consumers choice in their battery solutions for our standard Xbox Wireless Controllers. This includes the use of AA batteries from any brand, the Xbox Rechargeable Battery, charging solutions from our partners, or a USB-C cable, which can power the controller when plugged in to the console or PC.

Companies competing in the same market often use design choices to differentiate themselves. Microsoft emphasizes the flexibility of offering AA support. Sony’s DualShock 4 copy notes that you can charge its internal battery while playing. We’ve seen this kind of behavior in the PC market as well. When Nvidia emphasized 3-D gaming, AMD focused on its own Eyefinity displays. A few years later, when AMD was talking up DirectX 12, Nvidia was putting a much heavier emphasis on VR. In this case, Microsoft and Sony maintain a slight feature difference in what they offer and how they offer it.

As far as Microsoft’s controller is concerned, I can testify that the battery life from regular AAs isn’t great, and it gets a lot worse if you have rumble enabled in a rumble-heavy title. If you don’t play much, regular AAs are fine, but if you intend to game on a regular basis you’ll want to invest in some rechargeable batteries for the Xbox controller. They’ll pay for themselves in fairly short order.

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