My gaming device is mine: but Xbox and Playstation want to control your controller

The big console makers are limiting consumers’ use of accessories in the name of ‘security’. Are they right to do so? Euroconsumers has made an analysis and wants Microsoft and Sony to stop unfairly blocking third party devices for false security reasons.

After the golden gaming days of the pandemic, the industry is in a difficult transition. Against this backdrop, it appears that some of the biggest companies want even more of the secondary accessory market territory – this will inevitably reduce choice and cost loyal gamers whose budgets are already stretched.

Gamers’ hands are tied by ‘official’ controllers

The big console makers Sony and Microsoft are attempting to get a firmer grip on the hardware accessories market. In Europe, 58% of gamers play on consoles, with Sony’s PlayStation and Microsoft’s Xbox as the two major global players in this market. Nintendo’s hybrid Switch console is also incredibly popular, but owners will often have a Xbox or PlayStation as well their Switch.

Microsoft came under scrutiny at the end of last year when some Xbox owners got warning notices about some non-Xbox accessories like controllers that they were using.

Players using these were told that their connected accessory was not authorized even though many had been using these compatible add-ons without problems for some time. They were then given two weeks to replace the ‘non-authorized’ accessory. They were told that after that time, the controller or adaptor would stop working.

Here’s the message users received:

“Using unauthorized accessories compromises your gaming experience. For this reason, the unauthorized accessory will be blocked from use on 12/11/2023. For help returning it, check with the store it came from or contact the manufacturer.

To see authorized accessories, go to to (0x82d60003)”

This was a significant move from Microsoft as it impacts any accessory that isn’t original or hasn’t passed through the certification required by Xbox which would deem it to be ‘authorized’.  

Spanish consumer organisation OCU investigates the small print

Euroconsumers Spanish member OCU looked at what information consumers had in the Xbox console packaging to see if this sudden change of policy was obvious or fair. They found that for Xbox One all the product packaging information says about accessory compatibility is to “look for games and accessories designed for Xbox One”. There is no mention of them having to be original or authorized. 

For an Xbox Series X purchased in 2023, the same year that players were told to replace their non-compliant devices, said only to “look for games and accessories compatible with Xbox Series X”.  Again, there is no indication they must be original or authorized.

Anyone buying a console would not know at that time that the manufacturer would block uncertified third-party controllers in the future. This could be an unfair commercial practice as the manufacturer is obliged to provide the necessary information in the product packaging when it’s purchased.

What the controller purchase test showed:

The team at OCU then tested out what happens when an ‘unofficial ’ but ‘compatible’ controller was used with an Xbox. They purchased a controller on Amazon and got the same error message as gamers did, warning them that its use would be blocked and a replacement was required. However, the controller was (and still is) advertised on Amazon as “compatible with Xbox” so a consumer would naturally assume it’s ok to use.

Additional accessories purchase test: 

The team looked at USB-keys that allow someone to use say a PS4, PS5 or other controller with an Xbox when they connect wirelessly.  These USB-keys also allow you to use a mouse and keyboard. They found that USB-keys that allow players to use different input devices with an Xbox were also blocked.

Some gamers also use quite expensive steering wheels to simulate driving controls in driving games –  there are a few certified devices available but many are not despite being a common, fair to use accessory. 

Additionally, up until very recently only Microsoft’s own controllers could be used wirelessly with the Xbox, but Microsoft have now begun the Xbox certification scheme for wireless controllers.

Consumers not fully informed

Up until now, people could play with uncertified third-party controllers and with other accessories which did not have to be licensed by Microsoft. The information provided set out the need to use compatible games and accessories, but did not specify they had to be licensed. Sellers of the third-party accessories were also caught out.

Examining the claims: does Microsoft have a point? 

But even if the products would clearly indicate to consumers not to be compatible with the official Xbox, does this make it ok to block out third party devices? 

Microsoft’s website gives more clues as to their justification for the move:

“Microsoft and other licensed Xbox hardware partners’ accessories are designed and manufactured with quality standards for performance, security, and safety. Unauthorized accessories can compromise the gaming experience on Xbox consoles (Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S).

Combined with the error message about gaming quality, the statements from Microsoft suggest that some devices are being blocked because they include those that enable players to get an advantage in multi-player games, and some under the frustratingly broad category of ‘security’.

Is security trumping the consumer’s fair choice?

So is Microsoft justified in blocking accessories for these reasons? Or is the security argument being (mis) used to the benefit of big players? 

Let’s look first at accessories that help in competitive game play which obviously takes place over an online, live connection with others. Here, most gamers would agree that it makes sense to restrict tools that could give one player a competitive advantage over another.

Where the stakes are high in online multi-player shooting games like Call of Duty, a mouse and keyboard give a much more precise target and aim over a controller. Gamers aren’t in favour of their opponents using a keyboard and mouse when they’re playing a console game. While this reason seems legitimate, it’s a blanket restriction that could also restrict other fair use by those accessories and there are doubts that the restrictions actually work:


In practice, the restriction hurts legitimate use like reuse of older controllers, cheaper controllers or controllers from other consoles.  Also, some of the most popular ‘cheating solutions’ that make use of the genuine Xbox controller and appear as such still can connect mouse and keyboard and don’t get blocked by this 3rd party accessories ban.”   


Thomas Gijs, Consumer Electronics, Testachats/Test Aankoop

It’s much harder to justify the blocking of other non-approved accessories under the generic banner of ‘security’.

In fact, this is nothing new, security arguments have long been used to limit secondary markets by exploiting provisions that protect intellectual property, particularly those that deal with the anti-circumvention of technological protection measures. In some cases, companies exploit the spirit of copyright law to stop other secondary market technologies interoperating with their own, despite scant evidence that there is a risk of genuine infringement. 

But in the case of gaming, if a consumer prefers to adapt a PS5 controller to use on their Xbox then that’s their choice. 

If a perfectly functioning previous generation controller still does the job and can be made compatible with a new model, then that is the cheaper, and more environmentally friendly choice. Again, it should be the consumer’s choice. 

Likewise, now that Xbox offers wireless connections for keyboards, headphones and mouse, consumers should be able to choose to make use of the full wireless capabilities of a third-party controller. 


My gaming device is mine: is it ever ok to limit third party accessories?

  1. Connected, online accessories that give players a competitive advantage in a multi-player game: YES (but with care it meets objectives)
  2. Alternative console controllers that give no competitive advantage: NO
  3. Offline accessories where use doesn’t impact other gamers’ play:  NO
  4. Wireless accessories like headsets: NO

While quality and security checking third-parties looks like a reasonable idea on paper, there’s a risk that a prominent company like Microsoft or its rival Sony could delay or deny certification to an overly competitive alternative manufacturer.

In the case of Xbox, limiting accessories will leave gamers with less choice and higher prices – either as the added costs of certification would be passed on to them, or by paying more for an Xbox-made controller.

And, given that after the warning message that their devices would be blocked, Xbox directed people to their own official store – it seems Microsoft is keen to keep players inside their gaming world. And they are not the only ones…

Sony fined for shutting out other game controllers for PS4

Xbox is not the only console maker to come under scrutiny for clamping down on the use of non-official accessories.  Last year, the French Competition Authority fined Sony €13.5m for abusing its dominant position in the controller market. 

After a complaint made by Subsonic (a video game controller manufacturer) the Autorité de la concurrence said:


“While the Autorité stresses the legitimacy of the objective of combating counterfeiting, it points out that such measures were disproportionate, since they affected all “unlicensed” controllers indiscriminately.”


Statement on Autorite de la Concurrence, 20 December 2023

They found that Sony’s anti-fraud practices diminished the performance of non-Sony or non-Sony licensed products, and that complex licensing prevented rival manufacturers from being approved. The regulator considered that Sony’s behaviour damaged the other manufacturers’ brand and slowed down their expansion as potential market competitors.

My device is mine: don’t cut choice in the name of security

In conclusion, we’ve found that prominent gaming companies are increasingly blocking 3rd party devices. In some cases, cutting out choices in the name of security or fair game play makes sense. In many other cases it doesn’t. 

In limited cases like anti-cheating moves, Microsoft could be justified in limiting third party accessory input. However, the other cases don’t stand up. Anti-counterfeiting measures are of course vital to protecting intellectual property but as the French authority found in Sony’s case – locking down and locking out is a blunt measure and when used disproportionately and indiscriminately has a chilling effect on competition. 

Which makes us think: are big players misusing the security argument to extend their power to gaming accessories, so they have a bigger stake in these secondary markets?

Consumers want to have control over devices (My Device Is Mine) and have ample choice to decide on what device to use for what best price. That’s good for consumers, that’s good for competition, that’s good for the gaming market. 

Exploiting the security argument looks like they are stretching their power into the secondary market of accessories to the detriment of competition and consumers.