The original Xbox went through numerous revisions before its release, from the alpha development kit in the shape of a PC tower, to prototype kits using slightly different hardware, to the final version that we know and love (or hate). The controller for the Xbox was no different, seeing multiple revisions, from the Hammerhead USB controller, to the ‘Duke’ retail controller, and even the later Controller S, which initially launched in Japan with some differences when compared to the final S model.
The first prototype controllers seemed to have been called ‘Alamo.’ They feature a more simple design on the breakaway cable, and the thumbstick domes (the sphere shape in the controller itself) are somewhat transparent. At quick glance, these look similar to the Dakota, but these minor changes do make them a fair bit rarer.
The Dakota prototype was made sometime after the Alamo (and thus, after the Hammerhead), and the Duke controller. Despite a similar looking breakaway cable when compared to the retail controller, the Dakota is wired differently, so only a Dakota breakaway cable will function properly with the controller. For those of you who find a Dakota without a breakaway cable, your choice is to leave it looking pretty, or to modify a retail breakaway.
It is incredibly difficult to truly pindown when and why these revisions took place, other than the fact that it is fairly standard in the development rumor. The Xbox underwent some last minute design changes which likely resulted in the jewel changing, not just on the controller but also with the console, which had beta consoles sporting a much different design. One of the other rumors that I had heard, but never was able to confirm, was that some of the prototype controllers exhibited some random errors with disconnections in certain conditions, but again, that is impossible to confirm.
The Dakota likely shipped with some development kits, possibly with the DVT3 prototype console shown above. Late Alpha Development Kit notes point to developers getting a new controller, but it is unclear if that was referring to the updated Hammerhead, or perhaps a Dakota. Many of these controllers may have ended up in early demo and kiosk systems, and many more showed up at Gamestop retail channels over the years, leading many to believe that Microsoft sold off some remaining stock, as they are known to have done.
It’s also worth noting that one of the Dakota controllers in my possession has a different connector entirely, which can be seen below. Even after all these years, I have no idea what is going on with that one. Check out the pictures after the break, and some comparisons to the retail ‘Duke’ controller.
The front of the controller, showing off the jewel
The back of the controller, lacking FCC markings, and showing that the Dakota was made in Malaysia
A comparison between the Dakota prototype, and the final Duke controller. You can see that the Dakota is a ligher gray color, while the Duke is a dark green / black combination.
The end of the controller, where it would connect to the breakaway cable, is a different shape, and different color.
On one of my Dakota prototype, it has a different connector entirely. While three of the four Dakota controllers that I own have a retail style connector, seen on the left, one prototype has an entirely different connector.
A family of four Dakota controllers, resting peacefully.
See a few more pictures, plus all of the pictures above, right here :