Xbox’s 2022 customizable Pride controller is officially live, and it’s available for anyone — not just influencers — to purchase. It’s a solid change, after 2021’s Pride controller was only offered to influencers and select media people, in an interpretation of “inclusivity” that was pretty quickly roasted. Announced on June 1 via Xbox Wire, the controller is part of Microsoft’s Pride-themed branding push that includes Pride-themed Xbox merch, Windows wallpapers, and Surface Laptop skins, as well as in-game content like an emblem and nameplate in Halo Infinite and rainbow liveries in several Forza games. Microsoft gave Polygon the chance to customize one of these controllers during Pride month, which would then be sent to us. Here’s how that went.
I took on the role of designer and headed to the Xbox Design Lab website and selected the Pride top case — which sports a vibrant pattern made from a combination of 34 different flags. From there I fiddled with myriad colors for the rest of the controller. I tried out a combination of pinks and purples, in matte and metallic styles, to experiment with the look of the controller. But because I am boring and prefer neutral colors, I ended up going all-white on the rest of my controller, to make the top case stand out more.
The 2022 Xbox Pride controller will start at $79.99 USD, per an Xbox representative, and various add-on items — like rubber grips or metallic finishes — will cost more.
Here’s the completed look, in person, after I unboxed mine:
The Xbox Wire Pride controller announcement takes on a bold tone: “But this isn’t just a controller. It’s a symbol of the LGBTQIA+ communities that inspired it, and a call to continue efforts toward inclusion and representation across all gaming spaces.” Here’s the thing: The controller is just a controller. Luckily, Microsoft is also donating money to various LGBTQIA+ nonprofits, including OutRight Action International, African Rainbow Family, National Center for Transgender Equality, Mermaids, Lavender Rights Project, and Fulcrum UA. Xbox Publishing will also host a livestream of Tell Me Why on June 23 to fundraise for Trans Lifeline; the game, which stars a trans character, is also free for the month of June.
In recent years, June has become a month where corporations rainbow-wash their marketing for money and brand-building. This corporate pandering is so well-known there is a meme currently taking off on Twitter about it. In 2022, most people seem to have moved past the idea that slapping rainbow imagery on a product is a call to action or synonymous with any kind of activism.
Queer communities have wrestled with the question of how to make Pride as inclusive as possible, and that only gets messier when corporations push their way in too — especially companies run by executives who support homophobic and transphobic policies, or enforce discriminatory work practices, and then turn around and use social platforms to “celebrate” queer characters and on-screen representation. Some of these ring especially hollow, like Disney Plus sharing a Pride graphic on Twitter with queer characters from their shows and movies; earlier in the year, Disney workers walked out over the company’s response to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. (Incidentally, the Disney Plus graphic is funny — I don’t think anyone who watched Jessica Jones would find the inclusion of Jeri, played by Carrie-Anne Moss, to be particularly inspiring. Also, where is The Owl House?)
But I’m also just a person, and sometimes I’m as excited to buy new things as the next guy. I own the rainbow pair of Pride Chacos from 2019, and in that same spirit, having a rainbow controller is a nice touch for my gaming setup. My friends and I will fight over who gets to use “the gay controller.” It does mean something to me to see these flags on an object that I use every day — for work and in my free time — and I’m glad to see some of that money donated to a good cause. But a great scam of capitalism is the idea that buying a branded product is the same as actually supporting a cause. And it’s not!
If you, like me, think the Pride controller is cute, but you also want to support other organizations, here are some lists to start with, and a digital tool to help you do so. We will also be hosting Polygonathon, a 24-hour stream to raise money for Trans Lifeline, on our Twitch channel this weekend.