In what is a bizarre story, a UK website has quotes from Duracell’s UK marketing manager seeming to claim that Xbox’s continued use of replaceable AA batteries in its controller, rather than built-in Li-ion ones, is down to a long-running deal between the two companies.
It sounds like a very random rumour from Reddit, right? But the story comes via Stealth Optional who interviewed Duracell’s Luke Anderson. He was quoted as saying:
“There’s always been this partnership with Duracell and Xbox… It’s a constant agreement that Duracell and Microsoft have in place… [The deal is] for OEM to supply the battery product for the Xbox consoles and also the controllers’ battery. So that [deal is] going to go on for a while… it’s been going on for a while and I think it needs to go for a while [more].”
It’s an incredible idea. Especially the final part that “it needs to go for a while more.” Could Microsoft really be held to using AA batteries in its controllers because of a long-running deal with the battery manufacturer?
Microsoft replied to our query with this statement: “We intentionally offer consumers choice in their battery solutions for our standard Xbox Wireless Controllers. This includes the use of AA batteries from any brand, the Xbox Rechargeable Battery, charging solutions from our partners, or a USB-C cable, which can power the controller when plugged in to the console or PC.” That use of the word “intentionally” looks to suggest that Microsoft is making a free choice in its battery strategy.
Representatives for Microsoft would not discuss the nature of any deal between the two companies, but they did not categorically deny that some kind of partnership existed.
Of course, it’s pretty obvious that some sort of deal exists, after all, from our recollection, Duracell has been providing the pack-in batteries for the controller ever since Xbox went wireless with the 360 back in 2005. But using Duracell batteries is hardly a smoking gun for a deal that’s holding back progress.
Any theoretical deal locking Microsoft into using AA batteries must have now run for at least 15 years in order to prevent Microsoft from switching to Li-ion batteries in the Xbox Series X and S. And it seems unlikely that an organisation as canny as Microsoft would have signed such an agreement – that said, strange things do sometimes happen.
More credible is that such a deal, if lucrative or just cost-saving, might well stem progressive thinking in Redmond when it came to transitioning to a built-in battery. With Microsoft not clarifying the nature of its relationship with the Duracell Bunny, it might be another generation before we find out more.