Playstation Moving On – A Look Back at The DualShock

In recent news and rumors, it was stated that chances are very high that Playstation will drop its legendary DualShock controller for the PS4. It is a move that left quite a lot of us in disbelief as the DualShock perhaps had the longest run out of any console controller out there. Why the need to change it? Well, let's start by telling its story and you will quickly understand why it's now leaving.

Do any of you remember the first time the DualShock was introduced? Personally, I remember picking up my first DualShock for my PSX. A few years after the release of the PSX, it was becoming more and more obvious that playing a 3D platform game like Crash Bandicoot required a full 360 joystick experience rather than four simple arrows, and the same could be said about other game types. So, Sony took its original PSX controller and literally "attached" two joysticks at the bottom of the controller. In a way, it really seemed like Sony only glued those joysticks to the original PSX controller to compete with Nintendo. It also looked to me like another Sony trap to make me spend more money – just like the infamous Multitap (a 4-controller adapter), you once again had to buy something to get the same features as the Nintendo 64. So, as you can see, the DualShock wasn't introduced as a controller perfectly designed from the ground-up, nor a product that players were necessarily thrilled to spend money for.

I remember having mixed feelings at first regarding the DualShock joysticks as well. Compared to the N64, these were very slippery. I was quite bugged out anytime I would need to hold the joystick in a direction for a long time (such as in a racing game) and my finger would slip to the edge of the joystick. I would then have to reposition my thumb using my other fingers and make sure I didn’t let go of the stick at the same time. This wasn't ideal in any way, but hey, if you're a Sony fanboy, you gotta do what you gotta do. I also recall having a funny thought back then – "What in the world is the purpose of a right joystick?" – but naturally that was before the rise of console shooters like Halo. Back then, games like GoldenEye and TimeSplitters were commonly played with one joystick. So perhaps the DualShock was ahead of its time in a way.

Original PSX ControllerAnd here we are today... A dozen years later, the DualShock is still Playstation's controller of choice, but it may all come to an end this year. I'm still amazed by the incredible run these slippery joysticks have had, and in my opinion it could be attributed to one thing and one thing only: the DualShock might not be the most comfortable and intuitive controller ever conceived, but the more you use it, the more it fits like a glove. Through hours of use, that slippery feeling is eventually replaced by one of smoothness. You have to put in enough hours of gaming with the Playstation controller to achieve that feeling though. That's why some people claim it to be the best controller ever – once you know how to use it and master its weird joysticks, it becomes pure awesomeness... but it takes time.

On the other hand, newcomers to Playstation from Xbox and PC have a lot of trouble understanding what the buzz is all about with the DualShock. Once you've got used to playing Call of Duty and other shooters on a precise and responsive device like the Xbox 360 controller, it’s true that it’s hard to get the same results on the Playstation joysticks at first.

Now, no matter your position on the DualShock, let's all be positive: Playstation probably put incredible amounts of testing and design this time around, and we're likely to get a PS4 controller that will be nothing short of amazing.

What to expect from the PS4 controller? Well, expect a design that will be more unanimous and please everybody. I don't think we will witness something as edgy or daring as the original Xbox controller for example. The Wii Pro Controller is a good example of a compromise to fit most gamers, although Sony will make an effort to add a touch of its own. Some might say the Wii Pro looks a lot like the Xbox S controller, but Microsoft is just about the only company that really gave a second design to its controller model, so it’s probably the most tried and tested model that we have out there in the console world. I would by no means be mad at Sony if they took some inspiration from Microsoft. Let's hope Sony will get their controller right on its first attempt though!

Update – Spring 2013 – Official reveal of the Playstation 4 controller

The official Playstation 4 controller has been revealed at the Sony conference and referring to the issues outlined in this article, the result is quite satisfying. In the end, Sony didn't completely throw away the usual DualShock as was widely expected. A touchpad was simply added in the middle and the general layout of the controller was adjusted for better comfort for players with bigger hands and actually all players should benefit from that. An improved wireless capability and a new share button have also been mentioned by the speaker. But the best news came in the form of the fixing of the slippery joysticks we previously talked about. Of course, we haven't been able to actually put our hands on those sticks to see if they indeed have good grip, but we can only expect the best with this change. The left and right joysticks are now inclined towards the inside which should now provide much more stability for our thumbs, which was the DualShock’s main weakness. There are apparently more features to be still revealed and fully explained about the PS4 controller such as the ability of the controller to track the players’ position in a room using the light on the front. We're awaiting more details on that, but so far the new design looks very promising.

Article by - Marc-André Messier
Insert Date: 02/09/2013

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