Microsoft is further committing to accessibility in videogames with several new updates coming to the Xbox ecosystem, including detailed tags on its digital storefront, more accessibility settings, and a free course for developers about the fundamentals of game accessibility.
Detailed in an official Xbox blog post from Anita Mortaloni, Director of Accessibility, the various additions are about ‘meeting our players where they are and empowering them to play in the way that is right for them’.
One of the incoming updates is game accessibility feature tags on Xbox’s Microsoft Store. Available now for members of the Xbox Accessibility Insiders League to provide feedback, the tags are viewable in the ‘Details’ section of a game’s store listing. Divided into categories such as ‘Gameplay’, ‘Audio’, ‘Visual’, and ‘Input’, you can select each tag to view which accessibility features a game has. A video embedded within the blog post used Sea of Thieves as an example, listing features including ‘Full Keyboard Support’ and ‘No Button Holds’ under the Input category.
The intention behind Xbox’s accessibility tags is to help you decide what you can play based on your accessibility needs. Previously, there has been a lot of guesswork for people with disabilities, and reliance on communities such as Can I Play That? to do the heavy lifting of discovering what games do and don’t have specific accessibility features. 20 tags indicating different accessibility features will be included as part of the changes coming to Xbox, which will roll out to everyone across PC and consoles in the coming months.
Other accessibility features launching soon on Xbox include colour filters, a system-wide night mode display option, and the ability to set preferences for speech-to-text and text-to-speech chat settings in addition to game transcription. The Quick Settings menu will also soon be added to the Xbox Guide, meaning you can change system accessibility settings without exiting a game.
Another change is Microsoft renaming the ‘Ease of Access’ section on Xbox consoles to ‘Accessibility’, which will include an accessibility spotlight page on the console Microsoft Store. This will highlight games deemed to have innovative accessibility features and gained recognition from the disability community.
Among the announcements was a glimpse at the accessibility features that will be in 343 Industries’ upcoming Halo Infinite game. Subtitle adjustments, UI settings, input customisation and plenty more make up the settings aimed at reducing the barriers that may have prevented anyone from playing the famous sci-fi first-person shooter series in the past.
For developers, Microsoft is launching the Gaming Accessibility Fundamental course in late October. The free course is intended for those wanting to brush up on the basics of game accessibility or interested in learning about it for the first time; more details are on Microsoft’s documentation website.
Microsoft is widely considered to be a leader in game accessibility, especially since the introduction of their widely-praised Adaptive Controller, and the latest changes appear to be another positive step towards making videogames a truly inclusive space.
Here’s hoping their platform competitors follow suit.