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Daily Reaction: DualShock 4 on PS4 – Is it Time for a Change?

January 18, 2013 Written by Dan Oravasaari

As the DualShock has been the consistent PlayStation icon for many fans, the question that seems to be raised is ‘what will happen to it with each new generation?’ As rumors have once again sparked about a different DualShock 4, the Daily Reaction crew of Seb and Dan address the potential for changing the DS for the PS4.

Dan: Given the number of PS4 rumors swirling around the internet, it really is impossible to take anything at face value at the moment, especially when they lack much evidence and the sources are anonymous. This is especially true when we are talking about the one thing that has been so synonymous with the PlayStation brand, the DualShock.

As the DualShock has gone through a number of changes throughout its lifespan, from the days before analogs were standard, to the incredibly invaluable SixAxis capability, the likelihood we see more additions to the controller are obvious. The real question has to be: ‘what are we going to see?’ CVG says, according to a ‘senior game studio developer’ that the PS4’s controller could contain biometric sensors on the grips, and a LCD touch screen. Also, CVG apparently reported that Sony are trying to emulate the “same user interface philosophies as the PS Vita”, meaning more touch ability.

While there are countless options for what could happen to the DualShock, the ability to randomly state general possibilities from unknown sources, without viable proof to substantiate the claims, seems to set oneself up to inevitably being correct. Simply stating that the next iteration will have features resembling the Vita, some form of biometrics, or even an LCD accounts for most of the popular control methods currently available. So, in a sense, if Sony was to follow the market trend, as most companies tend to do, then CVG would be correct, as their “source” had obviously been correct.

Yet, not to just bash the hyperbole that is the random internet source, I would still like to go over my thoughts on the progression of the DualShock controller. According to my source (myself), I do not think we will see a physical change to the shape of the controller itself. Namely, we will possibly see a switch between the analog, and the directional pad, to account for the growing popularity of the Xbox controller, and the growth of FPS games in the market, that alone being the primary change. The addition of LCD screens, touch pads, or biometrics will more than likely be left off due to cost. Currently, a controller can be purchased for about $55, a cost that some already view as too high. If Sony were to include things like screens, or new age sensors, the cost would already be forced to go up a significant amount. But, one possibility could be a reworking of the L2 and R2 section to work better as triggers, and widen the controller to add a Vita style touchpad on the back, as that integration is already on a Sony assembly line. These simple features would significantly improve the ability of the controller, but also keep the price of the accessory well within a viable market range.

Seb: Yeah, I’m going to have to take this rumor with a large grain of salt – especially because CVG were the ones that put those terrible PSM3 PS4 rumors on the web – but Eurogamer does claim that the rumor matches up with their own information. The fact that a screen, touchpad and biometric interface for a controller were all patented by Sony before adds to the likelihood of this rumor, although you could hypothesize that a site might see these patents and use them to form a rumor as a way to cash in on the hype, while having a good chance at being right.

Either way, this is certainly a possibility. The DualShock 4 could break the mold – but I don’t think people should expect a massive change in design, because Sony tried it with the Boomerang and the market reaction was so bad that they had to backtrack.

Biometrics would be a great addition, simply because it wouldn’t mean the controller would have to be horrifically redesigned. I can see a future in biometric controllers, and even Valve is using it for their SteamBox because they believe that they can make awesome games with it.

A rear touchpad has its benefits, especially for Vita-integration, and that’s something that I’ve hypothesized before. But I talked about it back when the Vita had a lot brighter future – so integration might not help as many people now – and when it looked like the back touch could actually be good – but no one has really used it much/well on the Vita.

Your comments on swapping the d-pad and sticks are stupid. That’s part of the fundamental, core design that everyone who uses PlayStation has grown used to, and fond of. They won’t change it. But I do agree that the R2+L2 buttons could do with a small redesign.

As for a front touch screen… I don’t want the Wii U. That’s there, that exists, I don’t need Sony to do it. Also, it’s huge and will be heavy – can’t I just have one controller that isn’t about exercise? There’s also a very real worry about battery usage – the Wii U controller is absolutely awful.

Sony doesn’t have the best track record with gimmicky stuff that need support – SixAxis was completely pointless, yet it’s costing Sony huge amounts to include it in the 100million+ DualShock 3s; Move was utterly wasted potential and the PS Eye has been ignored.

Gimmicks are nice optional extras, but they cost money, and mean that either Sony has to reduce the profits it makes on its controller, or that it has to charge users more. Both are bad.

Plus, with Gaikai’s Perry saying that the DualShock is going to be used for their cloud gaming system, whatever Sony decides will fundamentally affect the growth of that entire ecosystem. If it’s too expensive, people won’t buy the DS4 simply to play Uncharted 4 on their tablet. Equally, if it’s a massive controller sporting a touch screen, people won’t be inclined to carry it around.

Don’t change the controller much. If biometrics can truly lead to great gameplay experiences, fine, include them. But keep the design essentially the same. It’s what we know, it’s what we’re used to, it’s what we love. It’s what works.

How do you like the current feel of the DualShock 3? If you could change something, what would it be? Would you rather it be closer to the Xbox? Or the Wii U? Let us know in the comments, or by sending us shocking tweets at Seb and Dan.

Be sure to email DR ideas, podcast comments and reasons why the old knobs are better to DailyReaction@PlayStationLifeStyle.net.