I took Madden ’06 for the 360 to Pete’s house the other day so he could get a look at the Zombie Peyton Manning. On a whim, I tossed in my controller, figuring that some head to head football goodness would be fun. After all, the controllers are wireless, they should just hook right up and go, right? Wrong.
One of the few good moments you have when opening and setting up an Xbox 360 is pushing the big button on the controller and watching the console light up from across the room. Some magic has happened, you reason, and the controller and console are just able to find each other in the ether. You then get to enjoy the freedom of playing with the gamepad, unhindered by any man-made constraints on your position or motion.
Naturally, after this, you expect that adding a second controller to the box will be similarly magic. So I sat down in Pete’s living room, hit the big button, and watched as my controller flashed its lights, blinked, danced, and did everything but actually become usable as a gamepad. Were my batteries out? Was the Xbox confused? We turned the box off, and I hit the big button on the controller. Nothing. We changed the batteries. Nothing. Finally, defeated and demoralized, we did the unthinkable. We opened the manual.
It turns out that the console and the controller do not automatically discover each other. It turns out that you must power the console on, push a button on the console, and push another button on the controller (conveniently located on the back of the pad, where you can’t see it, and labeled with, well, nothing intelligible), and only then will the controller and the console talk to each other. From an engineering standpoint, I can understand the edge cases that this mitigates. What if you have four controllers and four consoles in a room and they all power on at once? That sort of thing.
But, as a user, it is criminal that I need to read the manual to figure out how to hook up a second controller to my box, when the first one just worked. Surely, my inner user cries, there could at least be a user interface in the dashboard that would make the box discover a new controller. Surely there is some industry standard protocol for short range wireless devices that would allow the 360 and the controller to discover each other and pair up. Surely I don’t have to walk all the way over to the box and hit a tiny little button on the front that isn’t even labeled.
Then, an even more horrifying thought came to me. The controller and 360 in my premium pack had talked to each other immediately. Out of the box. How is this possible? As the answer dawned on me, my spirit fell. Somewhere in some back room of a dank Chinese factory, there is an army of people powering up a 360, hitting a button on the front, then hitting a button on the back of the controller, waiting for the lights, and then packing the console into boxes. All this, so the first time I hit that button, the console turned on. Maybe it wasn’t worth it.