[UPDATE] Xbox controllers still use AA batteries because of a long-running marketing deal

One of the oddities of the Xbox console over the last few generations has been that, while Sony and Nintendo have started using built in rechargeable batteries for their controllers, the Xbox has stuck with using a pair of AA batteries by default, bundling in a pair of single-use Duracell batteries with controllers and consoles.

It now turns out that this is, at least in part, down to a long-running partnership and marketing deal with Duracell.

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In an interview with Stealth Optional, Duracell UK’s marketing manager Luke Anderson said, “There’s always been this partnership with Duracell and Xbox It’s a constant agreement that Duracell and Microsoft have in place.”

He continues, “[The deal is] for OEM to supply the battery product for the Xbox consoles and also the controllers’ 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].”

MCVUK followed up on this with Microsoft, who replied, “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.”

That choice is something that a fair few Xbox users do champion, whether it’s grabbing a bespoke rechargeable pack or using rechargeable AA batteries. If your controller runs out of charge mid-session, it’s easy to grab a second pair of batteries, pop them in and carry on playing untethered.

Of course, there are advocates for built in batteries. The first and foremost upside is a reduction in waste, with single-use batteries not the best option for the environment, but there’s also the simplicity of just needing a supplied cable to recharge. The Xbox Series X|S just come with disposable batteries and don’t have a USB-C cable in the box.

Xbox have stuck with AA batteries ever since the launch of the Xbox 360 in 2005, but made one notable step away from this partnership with the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 that launched in 2019. That controller has a built-in battery which can run up to 40 hours between charges, and it at the time led to rumours that they might be shifting to built-in batteries for the Xbox Series X|S controller. Of course, we now know that’s not happened.

Perhaps the best option for consumers and the future of the planet, if Microsoft does wish to continue to feature a AA battery bay on their controller, would be for Microsoft to start bundling in some of Duracell’s rechargeable batteries and make any changes necessary to the Xbox controller circuitry to allow them to recharge regular batteries, and not just bespoke battery packs.

UPDATE: Microsoft have denied the claim made by Duracell.

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.

Source: Stealth Optional, MCVUK

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11 Comments

  1. The Duelsense controller at retail also no longer comes with a USB-C charging cable which is a shame. I don’t have that many cables lying around. Plenty of redundant Micro USB cables.

    Still hopefully the official charging station will be more widely available in 2021 as not been able to pick one up.

    • Well, you do get one with the console itself. The Series X doesn’t even have that small courtesy.

  2. I like that they use AAs. I’ve got a set of rechargeables on standby and they last ages. Personally I’d prefer PS controller to be the same.

    • Yeah, this! A batch of rechargeables and they last for wayyyyy longer than the PS equivalents.

      • Even a 7 year old PS4 controller that’s slowly losing it’s capacity to hold a charge lasts long enough. And you can always plug it in and charge it while you’re playing anyway. Without the need to buy extra batteries or a rechargeable battery pack.

        Rechargeable AA batteries never seem to have that long a life. Even if the capacity can be quite decent these days, so you won’t need to charge them as often, they don’t seem to handle being charged too many times.

        And while they’re not as nasty as they used to be (someone decided cadmium, for instance, wasn’t really something you should be using lots of), they’ve got all sorts of weird things in. Should we be using up rare earth metals if there are other options? Bit dependent on China there.

        Both solutions have their benefits and problems, really. But I think Sony went about it the right way overall.

  3. I’m a big fan of the replaceable AA batteries personally. I worry about dead batteries in controllers that have them built in, and people just throwing them away since they don’t feel comfortable replacing the OEM one. This is about whether or not my controller will work 20 years later when these consoles are considered retro.

    • I like your optimism that the current crop of consoles and games will still be playable in 20 years! They seem to be ever more dependent on connecting to various online services (not to mention update servers) and I’m starting to doubt how many of them will still be running in a decade, let alone after that…

    • I think the Microsoft solution here overall is rubbish, I would dread creating that many dead battery waste. But with this you got a point, maybe the ONLY one.
      I regret I got rid of consoles many years back, and I’ll never do this again, I’ll always hold on to them. Whether they’ll still work in 10 to 20 years, I don’t know, and I doubt it. But built-in controller batteries might become a problem indeed, if the consoles still worked.

    • See how todays retro gamers bring back to life old gameboys and the like, you’ll have absolutely no trouble buying a replacement battery pack in 10 years time for your dual shock. You might be surprised that they still work anyway. My ps3 era move controllers are still fine for PSVR. They are over 10 years old now.

  4. I recently bought an xbox controller for some PC gaming. I was so surprised by the AA batteries, really wasn’t expecting it. Last time I put batteries in something for gaming was the GBA! It seems so old school

  5. I wasn’t able to snatch a PS5 but got my hands on the Xbox series X. I was actually quite (unpleasent) surprised it came with regular batteries and was more surprised when I found out it retails for only 10 less than a DS5 but lacks a speaker, microphone, lightbar/lightelement that changes colour with the game, touchpad, gyroscope, built in battery and the new adaptive triggers.
    Call me ignorant but I’ve always been hearing these amazing stories of the Xbox controllers and how they are vastly superior so my hopes were high. It took me some getting used to and yes, it’s a fine controller BUT, nothing about this controller shouts “I AM NEXT GEN” to me. I’m actually missing last gen features.
    The Batteries only lasted me 30 hours using headphones plugged in to the controller. I normally charge my controller after each session so I’ve never had an empty controller until today (actually, I did once! have to swap for my second DS4 in a 9 hour Destiny grinding session followed by a Raid). Very strange, my initial reaction was to plug it in and continue BUT I had to take a cover -one I’m very afraid of misplacing – off and pop new AA batteries in. Paying 60 for a controller and 30 for a charge and play pack just doesnt seem reasonable to me coming from playstation land since ps1 and having built in batteries since ps3 (the moment they went wireles) and the number of features it lacks compared to Sony and Nitty.
    My 2ct, do with it as you please :-)

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