January 16, 2018 // 10:28 a.m.
Jonathan 'Seamus' Blackley, co-author of the original proposal which would become the Microsoft Xbox games console, has confirmed the impending launch of a classic controller: The original Xbox 'Duke' gamepad, with USB support for Xbox One and PC use.
Joining Microsoft in 1999, after having left Looking Glass Studios over a managerial disagreement as to the future direction of the Flight Unlimited series and having worked on the technically-impressive but poor-selling Jurassic Park: Trespasser at DreamWorks Interactive, Blackley was one of the original authors of the proposal document which would encourage Microsoft to enter the console market with the Xbox. Blackley helped assemble and supervise the team which would create the original Xbox console, but while he would leave Microsoft in 2002 his interest in the device he helped create never wavered.
Now, nearly 17 years after it launched, Blackley is back with a reborn console accessory based on the original Xbox 'Duke' controller. Sold with the earliest models of Xbox consoles before being replaced with the Xbox 'S' controller, the 'Duke' controller - also known as the 'Fatty' - was a behemoth of a device, but though derided at launch for its bulk has a loyal following of fans who are now being treated to a modernised recreation.
'I myself, having taken substantial political risk to support the "S" controller back in the day, am shocked by the enthusiasm [people have] for Duke,' wrote Blackley in a Twitter announcement. 'But how excellent is it that this poor downtrodden controller is finally getting its day in the sun? This was pretty much a project done because of LOVE and ENTHUSIASM not profit.'
Created by retro gaming specialist Hyperkin under licence from Microsoft and with supervision from Blackley, the new Duke Controller is a wired USB design compatible with both PCs and the Xbox One family of consoles. While retaining the overall shape of the original, there have been some modifications: Although the black and white face buttons are intact, they have been joined by the shoulder buttons which acted as their replacements at the launch of the Xbox 360, and sharing and menu buttons have been added. The biggest change, though, is in the centre 'jewel': Rather than a static logo, as per the original, the reborn Duke includes a small OLED panel which displays the original Xbox startup animation on power-up.
Hyperkin has confirmed a March release for the new Duke, with US pricing set at $69.99 (around £51 excluding taxes.)