At Xbox, we’re proud of the work we’ve done to make gaming more accessible for the estimated more than 400 million gamers with disabilities across the globe. If the pandemic has taught me anything over the last couple years, it has reiterated the power gaming has to maintain and create connections, the importance of play and what it means to be inclusive.
On our accessibility journey, we know that to achieve our goals to make gaming a place where everyone can have fun, we need to continue to innovate and bring new accessibility features to our platform and games. It’s about meeting our players where they are and empowering them to play in the way that is right for them, because we know how people play can change during their life or even over the course of the day.
Ultimately, we believe that everyone should be able to experience the joys, connection, creativity and fun of gaming, and it is our job to make that happen. As we shared in the Xbox Accessibility Showcase, we’ll be celebrating accessible gaming and the Gaming & Disability community all month long. To kick things off, we’re excited to share new accessibility updates coming to Xbox.
New Game Accessibility Feature Tags for the Microsoft Store on Xbox
For years, the number one question we receive from the Gaming & Disability community is “how do I know which games I can play?” It’s an important question because it can be difficult for gamers to know before they purchase a game if it has the accessibility features they need.
To make this easier for gamers, we are proud to announce that game accessibility feature tags (formerly known as accessibility metadata tags) are coming to the Microsoft Store on Xbox, which will display the accessibility features available in each game so you can make informed decisions before you buy or download.
The game accessibility feature tags will be available starting today to members of the Xbox Accessibility Insiders League (XAIL), who will help provide feedback on the tags so we can refine and improve the experience for all our players. The tags will include a list of 20 accessibility features which gamers commonly look for based on extensive user research and discussion with our Gaming & Disability Community, such as Narrated Game Menus, Subtitle options, Input Remapping, Full keyboard support, and Single Stick Gameplay. Game publishers will also be able to include links to additional accessibility information for their titles.
For developers, each accessibility feature includes a specific set of criteria to ensure there is a consistent bar for quality. As an example, we know that many gamers find it frustrating when a game has subtitles but the font size is so small that it is really difficult to read. Not only do we require subtitles to meet a specific font size to check our “Subtitle options” feature tag, but we also require that subtitles can be resized by up to 200 percent.
We know that beyond these 20 accessibility features that there are other features our community would like to see indicated on games. In the future, we hope to add more tags, while ensuring we don’t add so many tags that it becomes confusing. The game accessibility feature tags will also be available on Xbox.com, the Xbox app on PC, and Xbox Game Pass apps in the coming months.
If you would like to provide feedback, please join XAIL through the Xbox Insiders Hub app to visit the new “Accessibility Spotlight” store pages and let us know about your experience by filling out two short XAIL quests. We’re hoping to get as much feedback as possible, so please consider joining XAIL if you’re not a member already. Both allies and members of the Gaming & Disability community are welcome!
343 Industries Gives a Sneak Peek at Accessibility Features Coming to Halo Infinite
Paige Johnson of 343 Industries joined the Xbox Accessibility Showcase to announce and walk through new accessible and customizable features coming to Halo Infinite when it launches on December 8, 2021. 343 Industries’ goal is to make the newest journey into the Halo universe more accessible to as many gamers as possible. That includes those who are brand-new to the Halo franchise, as well as those who struggled to play due to barriers that hadn’t previously been accounted for. Inclusion is core to the Halo Infinite experience, and in recognition of that, the team built in new features to enable people to customize their Halo Infinite gameplay experience. Those features include:
- For Subtitles:
- Adjust the background opacity
- Enable color coding of dialogue per speaker
- Choose whether you’d like subtitles for all dialogue or just dialogue related to the narrative in Campaign
- Customize menu and gameplay font size
- Menu narration with adjustable narration speed for those who commonly utilize screen readers
- A new mode called “Linear Navigation” that lets users navigate through the UI without the need to visually see how controls are positioned on-screen to access them
- Option of changing the friendly and enemy colors to include more options than just red versus blue
- More UI settings, such as HUD (Heads-up Display) and reticle opacity to make it easier to identify information in the HUD
- Text-to-speech and speech-to-text options for players that want to participate in Voice Chat and either need to send synthesized voice or receive voice chat as synthesized text
- New customizations for players to control their sound experience with different volume sliders for a variety of sounds in the game
- Customizability for both controller and Keyboard and Mouse to rebind keys, adjust sensitivity, and change to taps and toggles versus holds
- A new Movement Assisted Steering feature, which lets you use additional controls to help steer wheeled vehicles rather than just the classic “look-to-steer” mechanic
Representation in gaming matters; to improve representation in Halo Infinite, 343 Industries worked with organizations such as Warfighter Engaged to offer new prosthetic options for gamers to customize their Spartans.
Accessibility is a journey, and 343 Industries will continue to update Halo Infinite in ways that empower as many people as possible to battle alongside the Master Chief.
Refreshed Accessibility Spotlight & New Accessibility Features
We are also happy to announce we’ve renamed the “Ease of Access” section on the console menu to “Accessibility,” to make it even easier to discover the accessibility features available on your console and to customize your experience. In addition, a new Accessibility spotlight page in the Microsoft Store on Xbox will highlight games that have numerous game accessibility feature tags, have been recognized by the Gaming & Disability community, and/or demonstrate innovative accessibility capabilities. This page will allow you to investigate titles by feature category, such as Audio or Visual features. And, in the coming months, you will be able to filter and search in the Microsoft Store on Xbox by one or more of these features to find your perfect game.
We’re also announcing new accessibility features that will launch on Xbox soon:
- Quick Settings: We are making it even easier for you to quickly access and customize your accessibility settings by adding the Quick Settings menu to the Xbox Guide. This allows you to quickly toggle accessibility features without leaving your game or app. It’s also a big benefit for families or if you share a console with others who have different accessibility needs: use quick settings to quickly switch features on or off, depending on who is currently using the console. Everyone in the family can easily flip the settings for their best and customized experience.
- Color Filters: New and improved color filters will launch later this month on Xbox Series X|S to enable those with colorblindness or color vision deficiency to explore more current games as well as titles in the Xbox back catalogue that were previously colorblind inaccessible. This feature will also help future games be more colorblind accessible.
The filters allow you to customize the visual experience and distinguish between colors that may otherwise be difficult. For example, by modifying the appearance of red or green tones, it is easier for players with red-green color blindness to tell them apart. In gameplay, this can be especially important for quickly distinguishing game elements that might otherwise look similar or blend into the background. While some games implement similar filters individually, this new feature applies globally to everything on Xbox Series X|S, including all games, movies, apps, menus, etc. It also supports multiple forms of color blindness, and the filters can be adjusted to your preference without impacting performance, screenshots, or game clips.
- Night Mode Display: Another system-wide update coming to Xbox consoles is a suite of settings that adjusts light sources to help you get a better night’s sleep and support gamers with light sensitivity. The new Night Mode feature is a way to reduce and customize light from the display your Xbox is connected to, such as your TV. You can dim the power button on your controller, as well as the power light on the console – if you’re a movie fan, you can now enjoy theater-like total darkness while watching your favorite films! In addition to dimming, Night Mode on Xbox Series X|S also adds a customizable blue light filter for your display.
All of this customization works across the Xbox system, apps, and games, and does not impact performance, screenshots or game clips. The settings can be set to a schedule to automatically toggle at sunrise and sunset, or at a custom time to fit your preferences. You can also set your console theme to dynamically switch between Dark and Light theme and follow the Night Mode schedule.
- Globalization of Speech-to-Text / Text-to-Speech Chat Settings: Gamers across the globe were recently provided the ability to set their preference for Game Transcription. In the coming weeks, gamers worldwide will also be able to set their preferences for Speech-to-Text and Text-to-Speech chat in Settings under “Accessibility -> Game and Chat Transcription.”
Free Gaming Accessibility Fundamentals Course for Developers Launches This Month
We’re thrilled to offer a new and free course on MSLearn for anyone interested in learning more about gaming accessibility and wanting to build and “prove out” your knowledge of game accessibility. This fundamentals course is geared toward those in gaming who are interested in learning more about game accessibility for the first time or solidifying the basics you already know. The course includes modules that introduce gaming and disability core concepts, tips on how to collaborate with the Disability Community to inform accessible design, common gaming assistive technologies, and best practices for game titles, platforms, and gaming hardware. This series aims to broaden the understanding of what “game accessibility” is. Additionally, it is intended to establish foundational knowledge to bridge the disability divide and increase the number of people coming into the field by providing ways to ‘validate’ your accessibility knowledge. The Gaming Accessibility Fundamental course will launch in late October, on the MS Learn website. Check out aka.ms/GameAccessiblityFundamentals for more details!
New Features Available for Xbox Controllers
Lastly, we’ve updated the feature set on the Xbox Wireless Controller, Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 and the Xbox Adaptive Controller to include next-gen features including better cross-device connectivity and reduced latency. These features were previously only available on Xbox Series X|S controllers. We will continue to update our controllers to ensure that you can play in the way that is right for you.
Continue the Celebrations of the Disability Community
We know that to make gaming a place where everyone is welcome to have fun and play in their own way, we need to offer customization, choice and always put our players at the center of everything we do. The Gaming & Disability community is an important part of our global gaming community and we promise to continue to partner with you to make your gaming experiences better by building out even more accessibility features and making it easier for others to include accessibility in their games. Accessible and inclusive gaming is core to everything we do because we truly believe that when everyone plays, we all win.
For more information on how we will celebrate the Gaming & Disability community all month long, visit this page.