Carbon Design Group

Xbox Transforming D-Pad

Xbox Transforming D-Pad in hands

Creating a competitive edge. Gamers love the Xbox controller, however, its hybrid D-pad left some wanting. Our team helped develop a solution that delighted the Xbox team and gamers alike.

A Transformative Experience

Gamers have different needs. Those who use the D-pad mostly for “up, down, left, right” actions prefer a prominent cross, which is easy to feel without looking. Those who play fighting games want a smooth D-pad which is more comfortable for circular moves like leg sweeps.

We explored a range of ideas from swappable “caps” to more integrated solutions. If only there were a way to allow users who wanted the cross to simply “remove” the elements they didn’t need. A D-pad that could be transformed from one configuration to the other would be ideal.

The key was realizing that up always remains up, no matter which way the cross is turned. A simple 90 degree twist could allow users to transform their D-pad from a disc to a cross. The solution uses sine wave tracks to raise and lower the wedges that fill out the disc, giving gamers the D-pad they want, when they want it.

When the mockup was passed around the room, the Xbox team broke into a spontaneous standing ovation.

Xbox Transforming D-Pad Animation

Gizmodo Approved

Gizmodo Approved - Xbox Transforming D-Pad

…like adding a pair of brass knuckles to your dragon punch—every move is easier to pull off more consistently….


Microsoft refined and optimized the innovative (and now patented) mechanism. When released to the public, the response was huge. By delivering a more responsive interface, the transforming D-pad gave gamers a competitive advantage. By thinking outside the box, we helped give Xbox a competitive edge.

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