Xbox Veteran Who Named Duke Controller After Son Dies, Phil Spencer Pays Tribute

A longtime Microsoft employee has died, and several Xbox veterans are paying their respects. Brett Schepf worked on notable Microsoft products such as Microsoft Flight Simulator, the Sidewinder controller, and the launch of the original Xbox, which he contributed greatly to. The original Xbox controller was nicknamed “The Duke,” a name that originated from Schepf’s son, who was very young at the time.

The Duke remains one of the most controversial controllers in video game history, with editors at the time calling it too big and too bulky. That said, the Duke did have its fans, and many of us had at least one friend who insisted on using it for Halo. It was later relaunched in 2017 and remains available today.

“Brett was in the hardware (mice and keys) group when we rolled in and screwed up his group and his whole world up with the console idea,” wrote Seamus Blackley, widely considered the father of the Xbox. “His easy smile, charm and relentless crazy drive was instrumental. He was also terrified it was going to end his career!”

“Incredibly sad news. A loss for anyone who knew Brett,” wrote Phil Spencer, the current head of Xbox. “Thoughts go out to his family. I remember Brett as someone who came at any challenge with energy, passion and a desire to do what’s right.”

Schepf’s sons Duke and Jack have organized a GoFundMe for his cremation expenses and end-of-life celebration, with the rest of the money going to Jack’s college fund.

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