Having used an Elite controller on my PC almost every single day for years, it finally started showing signs of serious wear and tear, so last week I got an Elite Series 2 controller. I am mostly happy with it, but there’s one bizarre shortcoming with its interchangeable sticks that has me stumped.
The original Elite came with a full set of three interchangeable thumbsticks. The default pair were of similar design and length to a standard Xbox controller’s sticks, but there were two more that were taller. One set I’ll call “Medium Length”, and the other I’ll call “The Long Boys”.
It took me around 90 seconds of testing to find that The Long Boys were easily the best. As someone who doesn’t play many fast-paced action games (where shorter sticks are a little bit faster), I much preferred the precision control they afforded, on the left for stuff like stealth and driving, and on the right for aiming and camera control.
The whole feel was just so smooth, and premium, and lovely. And it was the long sticks, more than the build quality of the controller itself, that made me enjoy using my original Elite so much. They made me feel like I was using a controller that was special, like I’d been granted powers unavailable to the peasants toiling away with a regular controller (yes I know you can buy thumbstick extenders for regular controllers, but they’re not this nice).
Once I’d tried out The Long Boys, my Elite’s thumbsticks may as well have no longer been interchangeable. I left them in there and never once removed them, and over the years grew to not only love them, but get used to them. I used my Elite so often that their length and precision was now just how a controller was supposed to feel to both my subconscious and reflexes.
So imagine my surprise when I opened up my new Elite Series 2 to find that Microsoft had completely changed the nature of the interchangeable thumbsticks. Gone was the idea of three pairs of sticks at differing lengths; now we get four spare sticks of which three were the same “short” length as the defaults, leaving only a solitary Long Boy.
What the hell? My controller is now weirdly lopsided! And trying to play with one long stick and one short one feels like hell, with one hand getting a soft, full range of motion while the other wrangles with a stubby little thumbstick. I’m not saying it’s painful to play like that, but it’s not fun.
I have seen some weird inter-generational changes in my time in this job, but few as outright bizarre as this. If you were going to be an asshole, you could say that I should have known this weird minor detail before my purchase, since there were images like this readily available:
To which I would say, shut up. The Long Boys were great and clearly the superior stick in my mind, why would I have any reason to assume that changes would be made, and so why would I even look at this stuff? (I could also meekly point out that who knows how long those sticks on the right are, as one of them could also have been long, and only shown top-down to illustrate different styles of thumb grip.)
And then you would say, well look idiot, here’s a screenshot of Microsoft’s own Elite Series 2 website, where it literally tells me there’s only one Long Boy included:
To which I would say, we’re getting off the subject here, I’m not saying I was hoodwinked here. I’m saying that only including one long stick is a dumb idea! This is a $180 controller, you’re telling me Microsoft couldn’t have put one extra stick in there, if not performance’s sake, then at least for symmetry?
After making this original discovery I figured OK, this isn’t a total loss, I can just swap one of my old Long Boys in and that’ll work. Not ideal, but it’ll work. Nope. For whatever reason, Microsoft changed the locking mechanism so that old sticks won’t attach to the new controller’s base. Gah!
So far I’ve seen two remedies online for this, since I’m far from the first person to blindly buy a second Elite controller and find themselves up shit creek without a long paddle. Remedy #1, provided by the worst people imaginable, suggests continuously swapping the Long Boy between the left and right thumbstick depending on what game you’re playing. No.
Remedy #2 is to buy a set of replacement thumbsticks, widely available online, which themselves only include a single Long Boy (since the packs mimic Microsoft’s own original offering), but which would grant me a second longer stick overall. Again, though, this is a $180 controller, and now I gotta pay another $20-40 just to match the inclusions that I loved so much about the first one?
This all sucks! So I would like to put this on record: Microsoft, when it comes time for an Elite Series 3 (or even a Series 2.5), please put two Long Boys in there! Connoisseurs of smooth, precision video gaming like myself would appreciate it.