One of the most important parts of any video game console is not the hardware or the software, but the controller; after all, what good is the hardware or games to play on it if your controller makes them impossible to enjoy? With this philosophy in mind, Sony has been an industry leader with their PlayStation controller variations for over 17 years. Born from humble beginnings, Sony’s controller has evolved into what can be considered their best controller yet: the DualShock 3.
The first PlayStation controller, launched alongside the PlayStation 1 in 1995, was the PlayStation Control Pad. Despite featuring the classic PlayStation controller design, which would become standard in every PlayStation controller from this one forward, this controller had more in common with the Super Nintendo controller then it does with future PlayStation controllers. However, Sony improved upon the design in two major ways: the buttons and the triggers. Rather than arrange the controller’s face buttons in rows, Sony aligned them in a more ergonomically friendly diamond position, along with assigning them shapes instead of letters. An additional row of triggers was also added to the top of the controller, bringing the total button count to a whopping 10. Its familiarity to gamers while advancing what a controller is capable of helped pushed the PlayStation Control Pad, and the Sony PlayStation, into the hearts and minds of gamers everywhere.
However, it wasn’t enough for Sony to merely improve upon the design of a competitor; they needed to innovate and push the boundaries as only Sony can do. What they accomplished in 1997 and 1998 not only changed how games are controlled but changed console gaming as we know it, with the addition of two analog sticks and the rumble technology. Released in 1997, the PlayStation Dual Analog controller featured dual analog sticks, allowing 3D games to feature precision movement not possible on the directional pad, with the additional stick controlling features such as aiming or the position of a game’s camera. Suddenly, entire genres of games, such as first and third person games, were possible on a console that historically struggled otherwise. In 1998, the rumble technology built into the PlayStation DualShock controller allowed us to feel the action through our hands as we played while keeping the dual analog sticks of its predecessor.
Two games helped the DualShock controller to succeed by showing off the strengths of both innovations: Resident Evil: DualShock Edition and Metal Gear Solid. With Resident Evil: DualShock Edition, players were able to see how much better the game controlled with two analog sticks compared to its predecessor. Metal Gear Solid highlighted the rumble technology; your controller pulsed to the whirring of the Hind helicopter’s blades or by vibrating as a character gives you a massage. Once these two blockbuster hits demonstrated what Sony’s DualShock controller was capable of, there was no looking back.
The release of the PlayStation 2 in 2000 saw the next revision of the DualShock controller, the DualShock 2. Using the old adage “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” the controller still looked the same on the outside: same amount of buttons, dual analog sticks and the rumble technology were all present. However, the benefits to this controller were all under the hood: the analog sticks were able to track position far better than the original DualShock, allowing for more finite movements, and the face buttons along with all four triggers were now pressure sensitive, allowing for different inputs whether they were tapped or held. It wouldn’t be until the PlayStation 3 that Sony made a large change to the controller.
In 2006, the world watched in awe as Sony unveiled the PlayStation 3’s SixAxis controller: a wireless controller, the first from Sony, that was able to track six degrees of movement allowing for motion-based gameplay. Of special note was that this technology, unlike their competitors, did not require any additional devices or sensors to track movement. The L2 and R2 triggers moved from pressure sensitive to analog, similar to the analog sticks; now, certain actions could be performed based on how far the trigger is pressed in. For example, pressing the trigger lightly in a racing game accelerates the car slowly, with the car accelerating at an increased speed the further the trigger is pressed.
With all of these new features came a slight disadvantage; due to a lawsuit with Immersion, the creators of the rumble technology, there was no rumble technology present in the SixAxis controller. This caused the SixAxis controller to feel lighter and provided an overall cheaper feel. However, in 2007 Sony and Immersion reached an agreement allowing for the rumble technology to be included in Sony’s controllers, allowing Sony to create the PlayStation 3’s current controller: The DualShock 3.
The DualShock 3 is the culmination of everything Sony has accomplished with their line of controllers to date. It features six pressure sensitive buttons: all four face buttons and the L1 and R1 triggers. It features dual analog sticks, two analog triggers (the L2 and R2 triggers) and a pressure sensitive directional pad. It is wireless via Bluetooth and features both rumble technology and SixAxis motion sensing. Truly, the DualShock 3 is the finest controller Sony has ever released.
However, the DualShock 3 is not the only controller Sony currently has on the market. The PlayStation Move, released in 2010, is Sony’s foray into the realm of full motion sensing technology. While the SixAxis technology in the DualShock 3 only reads six degrees of movement, the Move features full 1:1 tracking; where you move the controller is where the icon appears on screen. The Move was not created as a replacement for the DualShock 3, but as a compliment: while a few games do exist that exclusively use the Move controller, many games provide support for both controllers, giving you a choice in how you want to play.
As expected, the DualShock 4 will be Sony's primary controller with the PlayStation 4. The controller differs from the DualShock 3 in some major ways, such as the addition of a touch pad and the new "Share" button, and in some minor ways, such as improving the L2 and R2 buttons and and the vibration support. For all the information you could want on the DualShock 4, visit the Official PS4 Experts DualShock 4 page for up-to-date information about this amazing new controller!
One thing is certain about the DualShock 4: it continues the long trend of amazing controllers we have come to love.