With the Xbox Adaptive Controller out for over a year now, Microsoft appears to be keen on keeping the focus on accessibility by publicizing its Xbox Accessibility Guidelines for developers.
In a public resource hub, the company has shared 23 chapters-worth of advice and recommendations for developing games on Xbox for accessibility. The database covers a wide range of topics, including chapters on text, subtitles and captions, audio, narration, difficulty options, UI, communication experiences, time limits, customer support, and more.
Though the guidelines are just that — guidelines, not requirements — they touch on a number of issues that have been in the news over the past few years due to major games launching without certain accessibility features. For example, the text display section gives specific advice on ensuring text is large enough to be read and in a legible font, while the subtitles and captions section goes beyond simply advising that subtitles and captions be implemented and offers specific guidance on how they can be used effectively by the most people possible.
In another example, the section on game difficulty is strongly in favor of “easy” modes.
“The intent is to ensure players can enjoy and complete a game experience regardless of their skill level and/or various physical, cognitive, or sensory capabilities,” the section reads. “The ability to set a game to a very low level of difficulty may be the difference between a younger / casual gamer or gamer with disability being able to play, enjoy, and complete a title.
“Difficulty is often thought of as ‘Easy / Normal / Hard’ but these are broad buckets affecting entire swathes of variables. It’s important to recognize that different aspects of games provide different types of challenges and that gamers may want or need to configure these individually. To that end, games should choose to have multiple difficulty settings when possible.”
Microsoft is not the first to publicize guidelines like these. The even more detailed Game Accessibility Guidelines have also been publicly available since 2012 created by a coalition of studios, accessibility specialists, academics, and others.