I Video Gamed So Hard That I Broke My Xbox Elite Controller

Why yes, that’s a copy of New Gundam Breaker. Why no, it’s not a good game.

I don’t have many strong feelings about video game controllers, except for this: The Xbox Elite Controller is the most comfortable thing on the planet.

It’s a highly customisable and reliable option for any video game enthusiast. But last night, I encountered a problem. The shoulder button broke, turning limp and useless. My Elite controller was not quite as elite as I’d thought.

It happened while I was playing Devil May Cry 5 on the Xbox One. The latest update adds the Bloody Palace, an intense series of combat challenges that pushes players to the limit. There’s 101 floors of monsters and bosses, but I crashed and burned on floor 79 after some sloppy dodging. Eager to try again, I started over from the beginning.

In order to target enemies in Devil May Cry, you need to push the right shoulder button to lock on. It’s integral to performing certain attack techniques. I fought through a few floors. Arriving in a challenge room full of scythe-wielding baddies, I pressed my shoulder button. Nothing happened. Instead of the satisfying click of pressing a button, everything felt numb. There was no response on screen or in my hand. The button was busted.

After my controller got busted, I opted to play DMC5 using “Super Nero,” an ultra-powerful reward character. It was a good way to unwind.

After griping about this on Twitter and looking online for solutions, it turns out that this is a surprisingly common issue. The Xbox Elite shoulder buttons work thanks to a special plastic fixture that snaps into the top of the controller. When you press a shoulder button, it’s depressing the plastic, which then hits the proper area inside the controller to register the input.

But the plastic wears and warps over time, meaning that you can easily end up with a button that doesn’t really work. I was able to crane my index finger up and hit it in a specific spot to make it work, but this wasn’t very comfortable.

The Xbox Elite is a customisable controller where players can change features like the kind of D-pad it uses, the length of the analogue sticks, and whether or not to use additional triggers. It’s pricey, at $150, but it’s cosy and I got a lot of good use out of mine.

Xbox Elite controllers only carry a 90-day warranty. That’s a pretty short period of time for a tool that most players would expect to last a long time. There are some ways to deal with a broken button, the least difficult of which is to remap that button to one of the customisable triggers underneath the controller. But that’s a stopgap solution.

Muscle memory is a bitch, and if you want a shoulder button that works, you either need to repair it yourself or get a new controller.

There are plenty of videos on how to do this, which outline the type of screwdriver you need and the part you have to purchase online.

For the sake of my own curiosity, I attempted to adjust my button, but it had literally gone slack. Popping it off, I could see a portion of the plastic frame.

I decided that I was a moron and that I didn’t really trust myself to fix my controller. I purchased another, which I have to imagine is a decision that a corporation like Microsoft is totally fine with.

I am using a standard Xbox One controller for the time being, although the lack of customisable triggers means I’m not keen to take on the Bloody Palace until my replacement arrives. More striking than anything else in this process was learning how common this issue apparently is.

My Xbox Elite is as close to the Platonic ideal of a controller as I’d ever found. But there was a disaster lurking under the surface, a flimsy plastic that was the only protection against a busted button.

I’ve reached out to Microsoft about the situation to ask if it was aware of the shoulder button flaw. In the meantime, I guess I need to be careful about gaming too hard.


Comments

    These break really easily because of that shoulder button cheap plastic underneath - its a bit of a joke for the price.

    Also, 90-day warranty is not a thing in Australia.

    I've gone through 2 sets of shoulder buttons over the last 3 years. I resorted to buying cheap alternative set of buttons off EBay for less than $10. They generally last as long as the originals and I still love my Elite controller.

    The shoulder buttons are notorious for breaking on Elite controllers. You’d think they’d be spring loaded for how much the controller costs. Take this as an opportunity to customise your controller. Like this:
    https://imgur.com/FeMFd44

      Like Sid said, order some shoulder buttons off eBay and google how to attach them. And get some nice chrome rings too (see my controller in the pic above).

    I have recently got an Xbox One X to play some games with my niece and nephew, after many requests from them. The controller has issues after just two months (and this isnt my main console, so it is only played an average amount with them), I asked my nephew and he said he was on his fourth controller in two years!!!! I was amazed and he was like 'nah this is pretty normal, a few of my friends have gone through more'

    Meanwhile PS4 Pro controller I have had since launch date, what two and a half years ago, and has seen excessive play, to say how many times it has fallen to the floor and the like, still solider on. For me there is nothing about the Xbox unit as a whole that feels like 'quality', I cant explain it, it all just feels cheap and plastic-like compared to how rugged the PS4 unit SEEMS.

    Yep ! I remember leaving a comment on an article from a year ago warning people of how easily they break. I have been through 3 shoulder buttons and every friend i have that owns one has had it break on them.Even the rubber grip falls off ! its held on by some cheap two sided tape !! For 200 bucks the standard seems more reliable. Terrible design.

    I broke mine recently and could not believe how bad other controllers were when i forced to go back to them. Greatest controller on the planet

    I’m on my third PS4 controller, the thumb sticks seem to be the thing that wears out, just due to wear and tear.
    I don’t smash them I’m fairly careful, although one of them I’m pretty sure I broke due to raging at hatsune miku rhythm game!

      Apparently it's a flaw with the design that lets dust into the gubbins and effects the pots that measure stick movement, after completing one game (spiderman) my right stick is useless in Horizon Zero Dawn because the bow seems to have zero deadzone and is constantly pulling up toward the sky.

      It's fine in other games tho.

      I don't rage at Future Tone. I just cry a bit because Hard is too easy and Extreme is too hard (mostly due to the triple press notes) for my skill level :-(

    The Xbox One pro-controller - the greatest controller available now on the planet (with the feel of the switch pro controller just behind - albeit without the weight or customisability) - I have two...

    and the shoulder buttons are fragile and dreadful.

    The controller also has an excellent option where you can switch between full analogue travel for the triggers (for an accelerator) vs something more digital (like a gun trigger) - but that option has failed on one of my controllers too.

    It should be a little pricier - with fully removable and replaceable parts - instead of where it is now - some parts fully changeable (the thumbsticks and dpad) and the rest made of cheap plastic.

    Never understood how people can break controllers. Have gamed since the mid 80s and have never broken anything gaming related. Sure things have worn out and stopped working but never actually broken anything.

      If you didn't break a joystick and had to repair them yourself in the mid 80's then you weren't doing it properly :P

        Yeah guess not lol. Wore plenty out over time however.

          I became quite adept at repairing those one button joysticks back in the day with cut up coke cans to replace switches haha

      This IS from being worn out

        Ah well thats extreme. Worst I have had is internals stopping. Crazy on a $200 controller that it falls apart like that.

      The only controller I've ever broken was the Xbox Elite. I did it twice.

      Same issue re the shoulder button. It's just a shitty flaw.

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