One of the unique features the Xbox One has over its rivals is the new Xbox Elite Wireless Controller, which boasts a range of swappable components, lots of customization options, and “pro-level precision.” However, in order to develop such a controller Microsoft didn’t just put its hardware design team to work, it had to do a patent licensing deal behind closed doors.
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The reason? Many of the features of the Elite controller aren’t actually unique to Microsoft’s peripheral. In fact, a company called Scuf Gaming has been developing and offering such customization for a while, and they have the patents to backup their work. So, rather than face a potential lawsuit in the near future, Microsoft decided to work with Scuf.
In total, Scuf has 17 patents, and 34 patents pending relating to the Elite Controller. How did Microsoft handle licensing those patents? By making Scuff the exclusive official third-party accessory partner for Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller.
It seems likely Scuf will be getting some form of payment based on sales of the Elite Controller, but will also benefit from a lot of free marketing and association with the Xbox brand, which will no doubt have a positive impact on sales of all their controllers across all consoles.
Depending on how popular the Elite Controller turns out to be, I’m sure Microsoft will be at least thinking about a Scuf acquisition down the line. Those patents are worth something, and may end up being useful if they find the competition is infringing. We all remember why the original PS3 Sixaxis controller didn’t have vibration built-in, don’t we?