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Xbox's new steps toward making games accessible includes developers getting feedback from players with disabilities and new guidelines for games with touch-based interfaces.

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

October 13, 2022

2 Min Read
Logo for Microsoft's Xbox console.

During its showcase focusing on accessibility for disabled video game players, Xbox revealed the next steps it's taking to "help developers create more accessible and inclusive experiences." These updates and changes directly address feedback the console maker had asked for in regards to making a more accessible-friendly future. 

Accessibility has become a larger focus point for publishers and developers in recent years. Outside of Microsoft, Sony has been making strides to ensure its first-party titles can be fully played by players who have disabilities. Naughty Dog's recent The Last of Us remake, for example, allows for deaf players to experience the game's dialogue via the DualSense controller's haptic feedback.

One of the changes coming later in the month will be to Microsoft's Gaming Accessibility Testing Service (MGATS), which ensures that Xbox and PC titles have their accessibility features validated by Xbox's Accessibility Guidelines (XAG). The Players with Disability Focus (PwD) will allow players with disabilities to give devs feedback on menu navigation and settings, along with core design. 

Unlike the base MGATS program, which includes players with disabilities and accessibility experts, the new PwD program is exclusively for the former type of player. And per Microsoft, the program can be done retroactively for games that have already released. 

Of the new PwD focus, Xbox's accessibility director Anita Mortaloni called it "ideal for developers or publishers that may not be ready for comprehensive feedback against all 20+ XAGs but are looking specifically for feedback against core player scenarios, including settings, navigation and in-game communication."

Another set of guidelines are also being released in regards to touch-based interfaces for games on mobile devices. The focus with these is on touch target sizing, recommended placement, and swipe sensitivity.

To bring attention specific accessibility features, Xbox highlighted games such as Obsidian's Pentimentwhich has a text-to-speech reader and an option to make fonts easier to read. The developer's adventure game Grounded has an option to change the appearance of spiders (of which there are many in that game) for those with arachnophobia.

Similarly, Soft Leaf StudiosStories of Blossom features a hints system and narrative recap (for memory-impaired players), highlight color options, and audio descriptions. 

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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