Sony has been a pioneer of video game accessibility, winning numerous awards for its efforts in first-party games like The Last of Us: Part 2, Horizon Forbidden West, and God of War Ragnarok. It’s become a trademark of PS Studios, and with each release the organisation’s efforts are getting more ambitious. The outcome has been more and more people are able to play its games.
But the platform holder has been lingering behind when it comes to hardware. While the PS5 comes with a suite of accessibility features at the operating system level, like the ability to zoom in on the screen and remap controls, the DualSense itself can be a hindrance for those with physical disabilities; the mere act of holding the pad can be a challenge for some.
That’s where the company’s new accessibility controller, Project Leonardo, comes in – and according to boss Jim Ryan, it’s an accessory that’s been in development for a while. “Project Leonardo is a product we’ve been developing for years, with the goal of making something that is truly unique and caters to a wide range of players with different physical needs,” he told Wired. “It’s really a toolbox for you to customise your play experience how you want.”
Sony is pitching the device as not just a controller, but a hardware kit, which is completely customisable. One of its key features is its split shape, which allows the user to position it as they require. “We finally settled on a split controller design that allows near freeform left/right thumbstick repositioning, can be used without needing to be held, and features very flexible button and stick cap swapping,” said designer So Morimoto. “Because players can customise it according to their needs, there is no one ‘right’ form factor. We want to empower them to create their own configurations.”
Ryan summed up Sony’s objectives: “We’re working toward a future where players of all abilities can share in the joy of gaming. Whether through in-game accessibility settings, platform UI features, or new products like Project Leonardo, our PS Studios and product development teams are deeply passionate about making that a reality. Our hope is that the gaming industry will become even more inclusive, and we’re grateful to play a part in this journey.”