Microsoft: Xbox Controllers still use AA batteries because of “choice”, not Duracell

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| Jan 11, 2021

In a recent interview with Stealth Optional, Duracell UK Marketing Manager Luke Anderson inadvertently set off a powder keg in the Xbox community attempted to explain the decades-long relationship between his company and Xbox, in which Xbox wireless controllers have always come packaged with a pair of AA batteries, rather than a built-in battery pack (beginning with the launch of the Xbox 360 and its wireless controllers).

“…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 controller’s battery.  So that [deal is] going to go on for a while… it’s been going on for a while and I think it needs to go for a while [more].” said Anderson.

Based on Anderson’s choice of words, its pretty unsurprising that the above quote was taken to mean that the reason why Duracell AA batteries have always been packaged with Xbox wireless controllers is in adherence to a supposed iron clad deal between the companies, and while such an arrangement should barely cause the average business-minded individual on Wall Street to bat an eye, it’s a completely different story within the Xbox community, where the ongoing battery-pack versus AA battery debate is as hotly contested as the choice between boxers and briefs (if not more so).  It’s long been an even split between the two camps.

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Xbox Controller

Unlike Xbox rival Sony’s wireless Dualshock (and now Dualsense) line of controllers which have always come with an irremovable built-in battery, standard Xbox wireless controllers instead have traditionally offered a battery-pack and charging cable kit sold separately.  While advocates of this strategy typically applaud having a cheaper, out-of-the-box option to keep their controllers charged, battery-pack proponents claim that the packing-in of AA batteries as the default is simply a devious strategy to nudge players into buying said battery kits as additional add-ons at extra cost.  For instance, the purchase of a standard Xbox Series X controller at retail ($74.99 CAD) plus an official Xbox Play and Charge Kit ($29.99 CAD) comes to a total of $105 CAD, which is $15 more than a PlayStation 5 DualSense controller at retail.

In any case, Anderson’s comments caught enough fire that when contacted for comment by IGN, Microsoft saw fit to cool down the language used by Anderson and underline its stance on the inclusion of AAs.  “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.” a Microsoft spokesperson clarified.

While the above quote doesn’t outright deny the existence of a formal agreement between Duracell and Microsoft (because clearly, there has to be some kind of arrangement as Duracell batteries have been the exclusive Xbox pack-in option for over 15 years now), what it does emphasize is that Microsoft’s focus is on providing choice to the consumer, including the choice to pay less or more for their preferred means of keeping their wireless controllers charged, and that other battery brands and licensed third-party solutions are also supported.