Microsoft’s moving Xbox ad was the best thing about the Super Bowl – CNET


The Xbox Adaptive Controller helps gamers with limited mobility play video games.

Mark Serrels/CNET

Super Bowl 53 has come and gone and, for me at least, there was one clear highlight. This Microsoft commercial:

After the Gillette ad “controversy” late last year, where a certain subset of men got irrationally angry at a razor commercial, a friend of mine said something that stuck with me. He said, if you feel any sort of extreme way about an advertisement designed to sell products, you’re a mark. You should know better.

But I couldn’t help falling completely in love with Microsoft’s Super Bowl ad.

Essentially a commercial for Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller, this ad follows up on an earlier ad from the Christmas period, which highlights young kids with limited mobility playing video games.

It’s incredible.

It tells the story of kids with limited mobility and their love for video games. All kids love video games and if you’re a person with limited mobility, video games can often provide a pathway to experiences that are often difficult in the real world. But in some cases, particular types of limited mobility can make even the games themselves difficult to play — which is where the Xbox Adaptive Controller comes in.

The Xbox Adaptive controller is a tool designed to be malleable. A product designed to help gamers who may have lost an arm, or were born with disabilities, find ways to play that suit them specifically. It’s an incredible product, built in tandem with limited mobility gamers and it has literally changed lives.

It’s a product built with an incredible amount of sensitivity, to the point where Microsoft designed and built a box that could more easily be opened by those with limited mobility. It’s a product that represents the best of a company like Microsoft. A product that a company like Microsoft should be highlighting. Microsoft could have easily used this ad space to promote the struggling Xbox One or the Microsoft Surface, but it didn’t. It highlighted the Xbox Adaptive Controller. It put diversity front and centre and said, “when everyone plays we all win”.

It’s easy to be cynical about the messaging, to say it’s exploitative, to say that this is a broad brand play for Microsoft. But Microsoft didn’t have to create an Adaptive Controller. It certainly didn’t have to put it front and centre during one of the most watched television events of the year. This is not a product that makes Microsoft a significant amount of money. This is a product Microsoft designed and created because it was simply the right thing to do, and that’s good. Regardless of your thoughts on Microsoft — that’s good.

Video games and video game culture don’t exactly have a great record of inclusivity. Historically, sports have had a similar problem. Microsoft chose to use the Super Bowl to promote a message of inclusivity and — in this case — it wasn’t just a hollow marketing message, it’s mission Microsoft has 100 percent followed through on. 

As my friend told me: feeling any sort of extreme way about an advertisement makes me a mark. I get it. But I can’t help myself. That was awesome. That was a positive.

In a day where the game itself didn’t quite live up to expectations, you could say Microsoft won the Super Bowl.

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Super Bowl 2019