The current generation of gaming consoles is already pushing the boundaries in terms of controllers. The PlayStation 5‘s DualSense controller, which introduced haptic feedback and adaptive triggers, has especially received a lot of praise for its new features. However, it appears that Sony isn’t resting on its laurels and is instead working to push the limits even further.
The mega-brand recently patented a new controller design, which includes an elastic section that could change shape and temperature as well as react to a variety of different physical inputs including touching, squeezing, twisting, and rubbing. Of course, just because Sony has patented the idea doesn’t necessarily mean it will ever become a reality, but it does signal the company’s intent to continue to innovate. Such an idea, if implemented well, could be fantastic. However, it could also be a terrible step for the industry if it falls into some common traps.
Sony’s Patent Could Boost Immersion and Support Accessibility
Video game developers are constantly striving to add more immersion to their games and Sony’s patented controller would certainly add more tools to their toolbox in this regard. Changes in the controller’s shape and temperature would certainly make environments and interactions feel far more immersive. As well as the obvious innovation of changing temperature to match the game’s environment, developers could also afford to be more creative. For example, they could emphasize chilling horror scenes by turning the players’ hands cold, or they could magnify intense moments with heat.
A wider variety of inputs could further add to immersion by asking players to physically perform certain on-screen actions via the controller’s elastic section. This feature could also open up new options for gameplay by allowing a larger variety of movements in the same way that added button mapping options on the back of the DualSense Edge creates more options and customization for gamers.
Finally, these new input options could provide a host of new accessibility options. Players who struggle with the dexterity of pressing multiple buttons when gaming could make use of the elastic section to instead use different sensory inputs to control their on-screen movements. Although it won’t help everyone, such a controller could open up the hobby to a wider audience, which can only be a positive thing.
Sony’s Patent Could Also Take Gaming in the Wrong Direction
Although immersion is an important aspect of video games, there’s a fine balance that needs to be maintained for optimal gaming. If games become too immersive, then it could negatively impact the enjoyment for a lot of players as not every gamer wants to be engulfed by hyperrealism. Gaming is an escape for many people, so making it too realistic or overly complex with more input options could detract from that feeling.
Furthermore, if developers can’t figure out how to best use these new features or if it’s not worth their time to do so, then the elastic section and temperature changes could become nothing more than gimmicks that are quickly forgotten. Of course, the level of success of this patented controller is yet to be seen (if at all), but there is one factor that will undoubtedly play a huge role in its potential success — cost.
The Price Point of Any New Controller Will Always Be Vital to Its Success
The cost of building a controller as described in this patent would likely be very high, which would have a trickle-down effect on customers. If it’s an expensive premium optional controller, such as the DualSense Edge, then developers may not spend the time or resources bothering to cater to the features as many players wouldn’t be able to afford the peripheral anyway. If it’s the next standard controller — for example, one meant to release alongside the PlayStation 6 — then it could shoot the console package price up, again pricing many people out of the hobby.
VR gaming has suffered from similar flaws and Sony would do well to learn lessons from VR when looking to innovate its controllers. Although the technology is brilliantly immersive, it’s certainly not for everyone, with many fans preferring the more detached and simple feel of more traditional console gaming. Its price point, too, is another major issue that Sony must be mindful of if it’s serious about making this patented controller a success.