New accessibility features including store filters are coming to Xbox, and Halo Infinite is among the games putting them to work.
Xbox outlined its latest accessibility developments in a recent showcase (opens in new tab) which was positioned as a celebration for National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The headliner is a new store feature: metadata filters that let developers “flag their titles with specific accessibility features so consumers can know before they purchase or download,” according to Brannon Zahand, senior gaming accessibility program manager.
This feature is now rolling out for the Microsoft and Xbox stores via the company’s accessibility insider league (something of a sister program to the Xbox insiders hub) and will later come to the broader Xbox ecosystem, including Game Pass and the Xbox app. In a nutshell, these store filters let players search for games with accessibility features they’re looking for. Zahand says Xbox has targeted 20 “common” accessibility features to start, including “narrated game menus, subtitle options, input remapping, full keyboard support, single-stick gameplay,” and many more, and will add additional features to the list in future updates, with closed caption support near the top of the to-do list.
This accessibility showcase showed many of these features and others in action, and Halo Infinite was one of the more striking demonstrations. UX/UI producer Paige Johnson of 343 Industries introduced the many ways Halo Infinite can be tuned. Halo Infinite is packing expanded text and subtitle options, dedicated volume sliders for multiple sound sources, text-to-speech and speech-to-text chat support, controller and keyboard/mouse remapping, tap and toggle options for inputs, menu narration, and a host of color options that touch on everything from color blindness to the armor color schemes for friendly and enemy players. On the representation side, it’s even got prosthetics to add to your Spartan. Like Xbox itself, Johnson says 343 is looking to add to and improve Halo Infinite’s accessibility features in the future.
Beyond putting accessibility features in the hands of players, Xbox also outlined plans to get developers access to resources that can inform their games. The company’s looking to make such resources “more prominently included in the gaming development kit [Xbox GDK]” beginning with its next release, as Xbox program manager Kaitlyn Jones explained.
As it happens, Halo creator Bungie recently announced its own accessibility initiative dedicated to making Destiny 2 and its future games more accessible.