The Super Bowl is the biggest annual football game and also among the most watched television broadcasts in the country. According to SportingCharts.com, each year more than 100 million U.S. viewers tune in for the season’s final NFL match-up. Many watching, of course, are avid football fans but many others watch solely for the stellar commercials. And with such a large attentive audience, companies allocate big-time marketing bucks for Super Bowl ads –we’re talking over $5 million for prime slots – and, so, strategic messaging is crucial.
During Super Bowl LIII– where the New England Patriots defeated the St. Louis Rams – viewers saw tons of humorous and heartfelt advertisements. With a lack of touchdowns in the low-scoring game, many took to social media to declare Microsoft as the true winner thanks to its spot featuring the Xbox Adaptive Controller. Twitter users offered praise, gratitude and excitement on both the Microsoft Twitter page and Xbox Twitter page.
“The video features real-life, regular people and their families, including Grover, Gunnar, Ian, Jordan, Owen, Shan, Poppy and Taylor,” Erica Walsh, account executive for Edelman/Assembly’s Xbox team, told AmeriDisability. Like any other “regular” kid, 9-year-old Owen declares in the commercial, “I love video games, my friends, my family and again video games.” And young Shan shares this love, saying, “Whenever I play, it makes me feel happy.” However, gaming hasn’t always come easy for these guys, their commercial cast-mates or the many gamers worldwide who have limited limb mobility or other physical disabilities. But Microsoft changed it all with the Xbox Adaptive Controller, a new accessible gaming tool that launched in fall 2018.
Through an online Microsoft Story Labs in May 2018, Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox, teased Xbox One and Windows 10 gamers with details about the then soon-to-be released Xbox Adaptive Controller. It was developed in partnership with disability-serving organizations including The Able Gamers Charity, The Cerebral Palsy Foundation, Craig Hospital, Special Effect and Warfighter Engaged to “remove barriers to gaming by being adaptable to more gamers’ needs.” This inclusive product is Microsoft’s latest effort to push the boundaries of technology and enhance accessibility for all. [Note: AmeriDisability previously featured Microsoft’s Inclusive Design program.] In fact, the Super Bowl ad follows on the heels of Microsoft’s Christmas ad which also starred Owen being cheered on by his gaming peers.
“Our goal was to make the device as adaptable as possible, so gamers can create a setup that works for them in a way that is plug-and-play, extensible and affordable. In addition to working with common adaptive switches that gamers with limited mobility may already own, it has two large buttons built in. These buttons can also be reprogrammed to act as any of the standard controller’s button inputs via theXbox Accessories app,” Spencer described in the May post. That’s right… this larger, user-friendly gaming device can rest on one’s lap or a surface and be customized to comfortably fit individual needs using switches, buttons, mounts and joysticks.
So how “affordable”are we talking? The Xbox Adaptive Controller sells for $99.99 exclusively through MicrosoftStore. But it’s priceless according to Owen’s parent who shares in the commercial, “It’s his way of interacting with his friends when he can’t physically otherwise do it,” adding with teary eyes, “He’s not different when he plays.” Jordan’s parent feels the same way, explaining that, “She’s never had the freedom to play at the level she knew she could.” Now, her competitive and smiley girl can confidently take-on her friends and challenging games without confines. “I can hit the buttons just as fast as they can,” Jordan says.
Perhaps some won’t understand the commercial’s hype and believe it to be just another toy or game. But the Xbox Adaptive Controller is much more to the millions of people with disabilities around the world who just want to experience the same “regular” joys and pastimes as everyone else. “When I am playing with a regular controller, there are some things that don’t work for me,” curly-haired Grover states directly into the camera. Microsoft’s commitment to innovation through accessible technology levels the playing field and creates opportunities for all abilities. The commercial’s tagline says it all: “When everybody plays, we all win.” So, yes, we should all cheer for Microsoft for this game-winning play.