News Article

Talking Point: Is It Time to Say Goodbye to the DualShock?

Posted by Sammy Barker

Changes are taking place

Sony is supposedly planning to ditch the DualShock controller with the release of its impending next generation console, the PlayStation 4. The iconic input device, with its pointed handles and symmetrical analogue sticks, has been a pivotal part of Sony’s gaming ecosystem since its original release in 1997. But is it time for a change?

There’s a reason that the DualShock controller has persisted through three console generations, and it can be attributed to more than just the unit’s award winning design. The device is extremely versatile, adapting itself to almost all genres. Shooters, brawlers, and action titles all feel at home on the peripheral, unlike alternative controllers which fail to adjust to some types of games.

The Xbox 360 controller, for example, can feel like a poor choice for fighting titles due to the positioning of its d-pad. It can also struggle with character action games – such as the recently released DmC: Devil May Cry – due to the positioning of its shoulder buttons. Meanwhile, the Nintendo Wii, for all of its industry upsetting potential, failed to really establish motion controls as a viable long-term alternative to traditional control schemes.

That’s not to say that the DualShock 3 – the current iteration of the long serving device – is perfect in its current guise. The woolly nature of the unit’s L2 and R2 buttons are a constant source of criticism, feeling particularly unsatisfying when used in shooting games. Meanwhile, the on-board motion controls, which were a source of much conversation at the start of the generation, have faded into irrelevance as the PlayStation 3 has matured.

But we’re not convinced that the unit – as today’s rumours suggest – needs to be completely overhauled. The shape and feel of the controller is outstanding, with the build quality, barring the aforementioned secondary shoulder buttons, exceptional throughout. The face buttons are soft yet responsive to the touch, and the controller doesn’t seem to wear as easily as Microsoft’s alternative.

Indeed, it seems unlikely that Sony would meddle with the formula unless it wanted to take its next platform in a brand new direction, which may just be the basis for the overhauled controller reports. Apparently, the manufacturer is considering adding a screen to the unit, which would be difficult to implement without a complete redesign. Other proposed ideas include the insertion of touch interfaces, presumably on the front and rear like the PlayStation Vita.

But are such additions truly necessary? The Wii U shows excellent promise, but outside of flagship titles like ZombiU, it’s yet to really establish a necessary use for the additional screen. Off-screen play and menu management is obviously a luxury on the touch screen device, but is it significant enough to overhaul an iconic design?

It's possible that Sony could be mulling over a modification to give its upcoming platform the appearance of something bold, brave, and new

Other suggestions include some kind of biometric feature that would allow the controller to detect heart rate, perspiration, and muscle movements. The official patent for the technology – filed in late 2011 – proposes potential uses such as impacted aiming precision when your heart rate is high, or even more subtle tweaks to the soundtrack and visuals. While it all sounds undeniably interesting, would the functionality really add enough to the experience to warrant the inevitable price hike? Even if it did, it’s unlikely that Sony would need to change the controller much to implement the technology. Sensors could easily be added to the existing DualShock’s grips – in fact, that’s exactly what the original patent suggests.

We suppose it’s entirely possible that the company could be mulling over a modification in order to give its upcoming platform the appearance of something bold, brave, and new. But change for change’s sake seems like a bad idea, especially when it involves a piece of hardware as iconic as the DualShock.

Of course, this isn’t the first time that Sony’s considered ditching the decade-old device. Back when the PS3 was first announced in 2005, the system was accompanied by a curved controller, which has lovingly adopted the ‘boomerang’ moniker in the years since. The company eventually opted to scrap the unit before release, but it shows that the manufacturer has toyed with other ideas in the past.

And this may be a further example of that: experimentation. We’d be disappointed if the company didn’t consider alternative options, but we hope that whatever it settles on, it does so for the right reasons. There may be a more versatile, comfortable controller out there waiting to be designed – but it’s going to need to be something special to outmuscle the existing DualShock 3.

Do you think that it’s time to ditch the DualShock controller? How do you think that the current iteration of the peripheral could be improved? Let us know in the comments section below.

User Comments (44)



Savino said:

I guess its about time!
I always love the dual shock design, but after playing WiiU the dual shock looks so tiny and fragile!

I think Sony really need to make some changes and since that boomerang thing that they are telling us the will.
I guess that the second screen is the way to go... I am posting from my wiiu for heavens sake!



rastamadeus said:

Personally I hope they don't replace the DualShock. With the expection of the N64 pad it's the best I've ever used and is second only to the SNES pad for iconic value.



get2sammyb said:

Yeah, I sit firmly on the "don't fix what ain't broke" side of the fence too. I love the DualShock. I think the L2/R2 triggers could be improved, but aside from that, it's perfect as far as I'm concerned. Toss in biometric and better gyroscopes if you want, but don't chance the layout!




Savino said:

But seriously, you can throw a screen in the DS without changing the basic shape!
Nintendo did that with 64, nunchuk and now the gamepad. The feeling is basically the same!



Kelvin said:

If they have a good reason for the change, then so be it, but "we're bringing out a new console" is not a good enough reason on its own, as the PS3 Batarang showed.

And yes, the sticks should stay where they are. I've never liked the asymmetrical arrangement of the sticks on the X-Box or the Gamecube controllers, the latter of which I like otherwise.



Splat said:

I can't put in to words how much I don't want this to happen.. Just ugh.



hYdeks said:

I say change is good, but keep the dual shock 3 as a "classic controller" option for ps4. That being said, who saids the next PlayStation system is gonna be called PS4? It could be PlayStation Orbis from what where hearing so far The next PlayStation reveal will be a interesting one, indeed



FuzzyYellowBalls said:

The dualshock is the most unergonomic controller out there. Without a change it's most likely going to decide my purchase with not getting a PS4. I just find the damn thing so uncomfortable.
I have noticed most smaller humans like it, but bigger ones do not. I stand in the land of almost giants, so I'm in the latter. If they wish to keep it, fine... but it should be something similar to Wii U's classic controller option.



Paranoimia said:

@FuzzyYellowBalls - I must be the exception then. I love the DualShock, and I'm 6ft 3in with large hands.

As I said on another post here, the only things I would change are: Rubberise the grips, put proper triggers on it, and make the top of the sticks concave. That would be my perfect controller.



ShogunRok said:

Yeah keep the basic layout, just spruce up the feel a bit. Slap some grips onto the sides, update the crappy L2 and R2 buttons and you're potentially going to have the best controller ever made. I don't think the DualShock 3 has any major problems whatsoever.



Ginkgo said:

It all depends on what they replace it with. I'm not sentimental, but any replacement would need to be "better".

Personally I like the idea of horses for courses. Kinect style (for dance and other full body interaction), Move for Shooters and other motion control, Tablet, for whatever good idea someone comes up with in the future, and DS3 for many games it is still the best controller.



rjejr said:

I've always liked the design since they added the sticks - right after I bought my PS1 of course - but change can be good.

I'm more interested in how they change the XMB than the controller. God help us all it it looks and acts like the new PS Store. shudder



NathanUC said:

After using it for a few years, I hate using anything else. I'd prefer if R2 and L2 were buttons back like they were on PS2 or just more similar to the PS Move trigger, but even it's current setup works well. The concave analog sticks on the 360 controller are a friggen pain on my right thumb!

Also, it appears Sony recently changed a few things about the DS3. The internals have a tiny bit different layout and the plastic material was changed to a more coarse ABS. I noticed this when I was Frankensteining my controllers together to get dual colors



Gamer83 said:

Time to move on from it as the main form of control? That's up for debate. Time to say goodbye all together? Absolutely not. It won't be a deal breaker but I will not be pleased if a dualshock controller is left out for PS4. Change is inevitable but I believe in options and there's no reason a DS4 shouldn't be an option.



Zombie_Barioth said:

Easily one of my favorite controllers to date, and one of my favorite things about Sony consoles is the basic layout is roughly the same. Didn't mind the the L2/R2 triggers either except it was weird playing MGS with them.

If it ends up like a Vita with grips It might be ok, but I'd rather they stick with the DS3 design and just give it concave sticks and give the triggers a slight lip.



charlesnarles said:

@nathanuc1988 Word. 1st gen ds3 sticks are way softer to push, even tho the batteries suck. My red one's battery is surprisingly good, but the left stick makes a springy click whenever I move it now, and it's hardly 2 years old. I say they should keep the DualShock silhouette but re-remodel the insides. No touch screens! I have a vita! Let me use it for something! : D



IAmNotWill said:

Those analog sticks still feels a little off to me, even after all this time playing with it. The DS3 also feels really cheap and light. And it isn't necessarily great for people with big hands. But I would say its still good controller, and I wouldn't complain if they just kept it the way it is.

But the DualShock will never touch the awesomeness that is the GameCube controller!



craigun said:

One request. Please leave the shock in dualshock. I may be the only person left that cares about the vibration feedback, but I think it adds so much to a game. Remember the first time you played Metal Gear Solid on the PS1 and you felt everything the game offered? Or feeling the road in Grand Turismo? If anything, I hope Sony can add additional motors and make it even better!



BlueProxy said:

Don't overhaul it, but make slight improvements like: give the plastic a matt finish with slight texture, or a slightly more substantial grip, and the mushy R2/L2 triggers could use some improvement. They could even do something to make it look "just a bit" more sleek. Perfect example iPhone 4 compared to iPhone 5. Those improvements were under the hood mostly, and functional.

So they should keep the core in place, enhance what already works well, with minimal cosmetic updates. Better materials would be a bonus, but likely more expensive.



BlueProxy said:

@craigun Your not the only one. Vibration feedback for action games especially is necessary. There should be no complaints as long as the people who don't want it can turn it off in the settings. They've already been down that road though, so I think we're safe.



Stuffgamer1 said:

@Paranoimia: Same here, man. DS3 is ideal for big people, too.

I honestly doubt they'll change too much...and if they do, it'll mean they're dropping any and all consideration of backward compatibility. After all, that's the single greatest convenience to come from the Dualshock line over the years.



hamispink said:

@IAmNotWill I still can't comprehend any defense for the gamecube controller aside from the shape of the shell. The d-pad was in a useless position, the octagon around the left analog stick is annoying, the c-stick is a joke, the b,x,and y buttons are awkwardly placed (though the idea of surrounding a central button with more is interesting) L and R triggers are awful, and the z button is a pain to reach with my index finger. </rant>



IAmNotWill said:

-The d pad has been useless on every controller since the 3D revolution.
-I don't understand how the octagon could possibly affect gameplay, but ok.
-The abxy layout was different, but the focus on the A button made a lot of games easier to play. Of course everyone has their preferences, but I don't see how this is a gripe.
-Your index fingers sinked right into the triggers and these buttons are large. Much better than the crappy DS3 triggers or the skinny 360 ones.
-The z button is on the same spot where other shoulder buttons are. You must have a problem with all the other modern pads if the GC one bugs you.

The c stick does suck, I'll give you that. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but I don't see how your flaws affected the most important thing, which is gameplay.



IAmNotWill said:

Also, now that I think about it, I think it is time to retire the DualShock. The PlayStation brand has been on the same controller for almost 20 years. Lets get something new.

Although the the return of the DualShock wouldn't prevent me from picking up the eventual PS4, I would be a bit disappointed.



ThreadShadow said:

The Dualshock design is rightly one of the best in the industry. Afterall it was modelled on the beautiful simplicity of the SNES/SFC controller which is one of the best controllers of all time!

As for the L2/R2 buttons/triggers; For me they both have pros and cons to the way they feel. I've had no noticeable trouble with the DS3 triggers, but they aren't the best.

Two flaws in the Dualshock design, imo, have been.1. No memory card slot, (back when memory cards mattered). 2. The dpad. It's never been a killer dpad, good, perhaps even second best to Nintendo's, but it's always been the squeaky wheel on an otherwise amazingly well designed device.

Nintendo should license out it's copyrighted dpad design, so all games may benefit from it's beauty.



hamispink said:

@IAmNotWill I didn't mean that my problems with the controller effected the games, just that my complaints (which I see as flaws) are too numerous to claim that it was a great controller. It's true that the DS3 triggers are worse than the gamecube's, but that just means that they are both bad. The d-pad is important, especially as more 2-d games are being released as downloadable titles.
I've still yet to use a perfect controller, though the SNES controller was perfect for the time.



IAmNotWill said:

But for many of your complaints you didn't say why they were flaws. Just saying "it's not that great" without any reasons isn't enough to convince me or anyone that the GC pad is overrated.



moomoo said:

To completely ditch the model of the dualshock would be idiocy. Should things be modified? Yes. But it shouldn't be completely different from what people know.



ShogunRok said:

@IAmNotWill @hamispink

I have to agree with hamispink here - I was a hardcore Gamecube user back in the day, and even back then it hurt like hell after using it for too long. The d-pad is most definitely useless because of it's position and how stiff it was, while the shoulder buttons made that awful clicking sound and had to be pressed right down in order to use them reliably. The Z button was the same as the d-pad, it was stiff and half the time you didn't know if you'd pressed it or not.

The layout of the face buttons was something it did right, I'll admit that. It was a good controller but it's got numerous flaws when it comes to comfort and design. I don't think I've ever heard anyone say the GC pad is overrated, but I've never heard anyone say it's the best controller ever, either.



Scrible said:

Who cares, when ps3 first came out and had no rumble in it, I didn't even notice, plus, unlike 360s controller, it doesn't have an indention in top of sticks, which shows your thumb to slowly slide off which is very annoying, but everything else is fine, time for a change, doesn't matter, you will still play the play station



Scrible said:

Wait I just read article, Sony isn't announcing anything, so why bring this stupid article put, if you have nothing of true news, quit worrying about something that hadn't been brought out by Sony



NAZA1999 said:

YESSSSSSSSSSSSS make it BIGGER so we can bring the xbox guys in the xbox guys love the ps but dont like the control so make it happen sony make it happen



IAmNotWill said:

I mean if you are going to say the d pad was useless, then you have to complain about every d pad/analog stick that has ever gone in a similar spot. And I have never in my experience had to push the triggers all the way down just to make sure they worked unless I had a faulty controller or something. I know in a game like Super Mario Sunshine, I could hold down R a little bit to spray water and walk around, or push it all the way down to stop and aim. The z button wasn't an issue either, because what I did in the game told me if it worked or not. How is that even an issue?



ShogunRok said:


The Z button had issues - it had no distinguishable click or motion that it was actually pressed. Of course you could see it in game, but take Super Smash Bros. for example. You had to hammer that button to grab people because you always knew it might now work. It was unreliable.

Analog sticks in that position work - look at the DS3. D-pads on the other hand? it's awkward and misplaced. I never said the GC pad was the only one that got it wrong. The 360 pad does it too. Having analog sticks diagonal to eachother for games that use 3D space is an accident waiting to happen, unless you're completely used it.

At the end of the day, you're arguing things as fact using your own opinion, and my argument is based on my own opinion, too. I just don't think the GC pad was that great. It was good, sure, and there have been far worse controllers, but in my opinion it was awkward.



ThreadShadow said:

I think the "Z" button came about because the N64 controller needed access to the isolated "L" button, plus it was good design to have a trigger button there. You could hold the N64 controller three different ways.

But when you get to the GC configuration, the "L" button becomes the "Z" button because of the sticks new proximity to it. And essentially the "Z" button on the GC controller was completely unneeded, as "L" was doing all it's jobs.

Also I hear Miyamoto wanted to completely ditch the Dpad on the GC controller, but since there was so much in house protest they shrunk it and stuck it there where you see it today. It simply wasn't designed for high use on the GC controller.

As for the nature of the "L" and "R" buttons on the GC controller, their secret function was touted as a real cool function upon reveal. You can depress the trigger to a point, which allows function A, but if you give it that extra "click" you activate function B. So they tried to pass it off as each trigger was like two buttons. Now that I think about it, it's kind of a strange take on clicking in the control stick for an extra function.



InsertNameHere said:

I don't think they should change the controller. I've had every PlayStation, and at this point my hands are too used to holding the controller. If Sony does change the controller, they should just increase the lenght aand width, while allowing it to keep it's classic shape. With the increased size, they could easily throw in bio sensors and whatever else they want.

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