Xbox Duke

If you owned the original Xbox console back in the early 2000s, you'll no doubt remember its bulky controller, nicknamed "The Duke".

The cumbersome accessory was a controversial bit of design back in its day, receiving a ton of criticism from players and gaming outlets for its remarkable size and heft. The pushback became so intense that Microsoft eventually ended up replacing the Duke in console bundles, switching it out for a sleeker redesign, called the "Controller S", first in Japan and then later worldwide. The Duke became something of an industry punching bag in the years since and has regularly appeared on "Worst Game Controller" style Lists.

As it turns out, though, journalists and gamers weren't the only ones to have a hatred of the device. According to Seamus Blackley, one of Xbox's co-creators, he wasn't particularly a fan of The Duke either and is somewhat baffled by those who now admit a fondness for it.

In a previously unpublished interview with Time Extension from earlier this year, the Xbox co-creator told us:

"What you show to people becomes very powerful to people and you might not realise it at the time. I took a tremendous amount of heat over the size of the Duke controller. I had food thrown at me on stage by people. Literally.

"I put a picture on Twitter and I made fun of it like, ‘Look, you could land a helicopter on this!’ And I got literally thousands of people replying saying how much they loved the Duke controller. Which absolutely astonished me. Because imagine being me — and I hated the controller — but okay, fine, fine. I got to do everything else I wanted, fine, we’ll have this controller. And I’d go and try to seriously push it and there was no way. The hate was incredible. Like blistering hate. Death threat hate. Fast forward fifteen years or fourteen years and suddenly everyone loved it. What the fuck is that?

"So, as a total joke, I thought, ‘If I relaunched that, would you love that?’ And the next thing I knew I was relaunching it."

Blackley, together with the peripheral manufacturer Hyperkin, resurrected a version of the Duke controller back in 2018 for Xbox One and Windows PCs, to great success. And later this June, it will release in Japan for the first time in limited supply. It's been a strange journey for what was at one time one of Xbox's most maligned accessories.