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8/31/2010
01:50 PM
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Xbox Gets 'Transforming' Control Pad

Directional pad turns into raised "plus sign" buttons with the twist of a wrist.

Microsoft has introduced a new controller for its Xbox 360 video game console that lets users turn the circular directional pad into the more traditional "plus sign" configuration that's favored by many gamers.

Xbox Live director of programming Larry Hryb unveiled the new wireless device in a video posted on his blog Tuesday.

"You're probably saying, 'Yeah, Yeah, we've seen wireless controllers before,'" Hryb said.

"But here's where it gets interesting. We've heard from the community that many of you are not big fans of the d-pad, so the engineers went back into the laboratory and came up with this ingenious solution," said Hryb, who goes by the name "Major Nelson" on Xbox Live.

When users twist the d-pad, it pops up into a raised plus sign. Many users prefer the plus sign, particularly for sports games like hockey and football, as they feel it gives them more precise control over in-game characters.

The new control pad will be available Nov.9 in the U.S. and next February in Europe, and it's only available as part of the Xbox Play & Charge package—which provides tools that lets users recharge their wireless controllers on the fly. List price is $64.99, Hryb said.

The transforming controller is Microsoft's latest efforts to boost revenues from its Xbox franchise.

Earlier in the week, Hryb said the company plans to increase fees for its Xbox Live online gaming network.

Effective Nov. 1, the price for a one-month Gold subscription increases from $7.99 to $9.99, a three-month Gold subscription will rise from $19.99 to $24.99, and a one-year Gold membership will jump from $49.99 to $59.99.

Microsoft offers basic Xbox Live access for free, but players need a Gold membership to access advanced services like multiplayer support and Netflix streaming videos. Microsoft officials said the rate increases are justified by the growing amount of content—from games to TV shows and movies—available over Xbox Live.

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