2020 saw the launch of not one, but two futuristic new games consoles. Yet while many were wowed by next gen’s lightning-fast SSDs and drool-worthy ray tracing, the Xbox Series X/S consoles also housed a baffling throwback in the shape of non-rechargeable controller batteries.
Ever since 2006’s PS3 debut, consumers have become used to controllers being charged by USB. While every other gaming device since has embraced the rechargeable present, 14 years on, Microsoft has clung stubbornly to those chunky ‘90s charge sticks.
The question for many is, why? This ye olde battery strategy has, of course, been a great way for Microsoft to make more cash by selling Xbox players rechargeable battery packs.
Yet aside from this obvious moneymaker, the default support for AA batteries has always seemed to be an uncharacteristically old-fashioned move from a forward-thinking company.
Now, Stealth Optional may have uncovered the real reason behind Xbox’s eyebrow-raising loyalty to a dying industry...
Duracell comments on Xbox's use of AA batteries
“There's always been this partnership with Duracell and Xbox… It's a constant agreement that Duracell and Microsoft have in place,” reveals Duracell UK’s marketing manager, Luke Anderson, in an interview with Stealth Optional.
It turns out, however, that Duracell’s deal doesn’t refer just to Xbox supporting AA batteries:
“[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].”
Anderson refers here to not only an agreement for Microsoft to stick with AA batteries for its console, but also one where Duracell supplies Xbox’s other battery-based components.
TLDR? Xbox players are still using AA batteries in their shiny new 2020 controllers because of a longstanding agreement with Duracell. At least, that's what Duracell told us. No wonder their rabbity mascot is always grinning.
UPDATE: The gaming world reacts to this story
Since we originally posted this article, Microsoft gave this statement to MCV: "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."
Furthermore, IGN and Eurogamer have both stated that their sources do not believe that Xbox and Duracell have such a partnership in place regarding AA battery support. We've reached out to both companies for further comments, but haven't received them at the time of this sentence being written.
We'll be sure to update this article again if we hear more. Back in our original interview with Duracell, though, we did speak about some other things too...
Duracell teams up with Gareth Bale
In a bid to stay down with the kids, Duracell has sponsored its first ever esports team - Gareth Bale’s Ellevens Esports. With most under 15s probably having yet to encounter a AA battery in their day to day lives, you can see why Duracell are opting to put their iconic rabbit behind a promising new esports team.
“We've got bunny as a brand ambassador that you see attached to football all the time, so with Ellevens being a FIFA team and having a really cool character like Gareth Bale, it's a good brand fit for Duracell.”
Anderson adds, “You know, there are loads of batteries out there, you can go to any supermarket and see loads of batteries. So I think where the relationship with Ellevens helps Duracell is to become more relevant again to the younger audience - the younger market.”
Next, I decide to grill Anderson about the issues that really matter – Bale/Bunny relations.
“Gareth Bale is a very busy person, so, I don't think he's met the bunny in person just yet. But you know, I'm sure there'll be opportunities in the future for bunny to come down to the pitch. I'm sure there's an opportunity waiting.”
There you have it – another Earth shattering Stealth Optional exclusive. While it hurts me no end, I’m soon dragged away from the world of rabbit mascots and footballers and back to the land of lithium.
Introducing Duracell Optimum
Anderson tells me, “In the last year, what Duracell has seen is the consumption of batteries has increased, but particularly increased across games consoles. So across America and the EU and the UK we saw like a 40% uplift in terms of usage across consumption patterns.”
In an age where traditional AA batteries are seen as increasingly wasteful and irrelevant, it’s no surprise that the famous bunny-adorned brand wants to use esports and gaming to stay relevant. Anderson reveals that their business is no longer just about pushing those leaky old AA sticks. With Duracell releasing its own line of power banks and the (marginally) more exciting line of ‘next gen’ batteries known as Duracell Optimum.
“It’s called Duracell Optimum,” Anderson explains. “It's available in America as well and I know that is on the cards to come to the UK sometime soon. What that will give is more power and more life as well to a battery, to a device that's using it. So if you're using a toothbrush or, or if you have an RC truck, with Optimum you can get some more power into it and get it moving faster. And that's something that a lot of devices haven't really experienced. I think that kind of optimum brand will be something that you could work together with Microsoft in the future - expand our current deal.”
Only time will tell on that front, of course, but it's clear that, as a brand, Duracell still has plenty of charge left in it.