At Gamescom 2022, Sony finally revealed an official competitor to the Xbox Elite Controller in the DualSense Edge. While we still don’t know everything about this new controller, we do know a bunch about PlayStation’s hardware history.
From the original PlayStation controller with no analog sticks to the never-released “Boomerang” controller, Sony’s iterated on its designs in successful – and not so successful – ways. In the slideshow and article below, we take a deeper dive into the evolution of the PlayStation controller, including the brand-new DualSense Edge.
The Evolution of the PlayStation Controller
The PlayStation controller was released alongside the original PlayStation in 1994 and was inspired by the controller of the Super Nintendo. Teiyu Goto, designer of the original PlayStation controller, respected the success of Nintendo’s latest console and didn’t want this new controller to be too much of a “radical departure.”
“The Super NES was a huge hit at the time, and naturally we wanted SNES gamers to upgrade to our system,” Goto said. “That’s why the management department didn’t want the controller to be a radical departure — they said it had to be a standard type of design, or gamers wouldn’t accept it.”
Even though Sony wanted to invoke the SNES controller, it did innovate in some areas, like the second pair of shoulder buttons that would help navigate 3D worlds. Since players had to shift their hands from the L1+R1 buttons to the L2+R2 buttons, Sony also decided to add the grip handles to the controller to make for a smoother transition.
The PlayStation controller’s buttons were supposed to represent what actions they stood for. According to Goto,the blue cross (or X?) and the red circle stood for “yes” and “no”, the triangle was for point of view, and square was similar to a piece of paper that would let players know that button was for menus.
This original PlayStation controller would return in the PlayStation Classic console.
(Image courtesy of Wikipedia/Evan-Amos)
PlayStation Dual Analog Controller
PlayStation’s Dual Analog controller was a predecessor to the DualShock and introduced the twin analog sticks for the first time.
It was first released in Japan in 1997 alongside Tobal 2 and Bushido Blade and included a rumble feature that would be initially taken out of the North American and European versions.
“We evaluated all the features and decided, for manufacturing reasons, that what was most important to gamers was the analog feature,” A Sony spokesperson said in regards to its removal, which would not matter much as the DualShock would add it back and replace this controller the following year.
The Dual Analog controller’s twin sticks also had recessed grooves, while the DualShock would adopt textured rubber grips with a more outward-facing stick.
Lastly, the Dual Analog controller had a “Flightstick Mode” that would work with such games as MechWarrior 2, Ace Combat 2, and Colony Wars and was an alternative to the FlightStick Analog Joystick.
(Image courtesy of Wikipedia/Bollinger)
The DualShock replaced PlayStation’s Dual Analog controller in 1997 in Japan and in North America and elsewhere in 1998 and beyond.
The DualShock sported a rumble feature, and its name was derived from the two vibration motors that were housed inside the handles of the controller. In 1999, Ape Escape was the first game that required the use of the DualShock.
The PlayStation 2 would be released in 2000, and the original DualShock would be compatible with most games except for those that needed the DualShock 2’s analog buttons.
(Image courtesy of Amazon)
The DualShock 2 was released alongside the PlayStation 2 in 2000 and was similar to the original DualShock bar a few cosmetic changes, a more square connector, and analog buttons that were pressure sensitive.
Those who didn’t love the standard black color of the DualShock 2 could also purchase various other colors like satin silver, ceramic white, slate grey, ocean blue, and more.
The DualShock 2 could be used on the original PlayStation and would work on the PlayStation 3 with third-party accessories, although certain games that used Sixaxis functionality would not always work with it properly.
(Image courtesy of Wikipedia/Evan-Amos)
Honorable Mention: The Boomerang
While the PlayStation 3 “Boomerang” controller was never released, it took the world by storm with its radical design that looks like…well…a boomerang.
It was shown at E3 2005 during the reveal of the PlayStation 3, but curiously, wasn’t highlighted or focused on during the main presentation. It was simply sitting in display cases on the show floor.
The Sixaxis would go on to replace this wild design, but the Legend of the Boomerang would live on for many more years to come.
Sony did eventually comment on the controller, saying it was a design mock-up that it wanted to have ready for the PS3’s reveal. Following its first showing, the design team took to heart the feedback and decided to go with the much more familiar DualShock-style of controller.
The Sixaxis was included with the PlayStation 3 when it launched in 2006 . It was Sony’s first official wireless controller, and was capable of detecting motion with “six degrees of freedom,” yet it did not have a rumble feature.
Games such as Warhawk and Lair were designed around the Sixaxis, which was a much lighter controller due to the lack of rumble.
The DualShock 3 was set to be released with the PlayStation 3, but a lawsuit in 2004 by Immersion caused Sony to remove the rumble capabilities while it was in the appeal process and go with this version for a short while.
Immersion sued both Sony and Microsoft for patent infringement regarding the rumble functionality. Microsoft ended up settling, but Sony decided to continue the fight in court. Sony ended up losing and the verdict would have Sony pay $90.7 million to Immersion and halt sales of the controllers in question. Sony immediately appealed, which meant it could continue to sell the controllers during the process, but lost. In 2007, Sony and Immersion agreed to end litigation and would work together to “explore the inclusion of Immersion technology in PlayStation format products.”
This would finally allow Sony to release the DualShock 3 as was originally intended in 2007.
(Image courtesy of Wikipedia/Evan-Amos)
In 2007, a year after the launch of the PlayStation 3 and the Sixaxis controller, Sony announced the DualShock 3 at the Tokyo Game Show. It would end up replacing the Sixaxis and would finally bring back the much-requested haptic feedback.
Besides that, the DualShock 3 was not much different than the Sixaxis, even though it did weigh about 40% more because of the new vibration motors.
The Sixaxis would be discontinued in 2008, making the DualShock 3 the standard controller for the PlayStation 3.
The PlayStation Move controllers were originally released in 2009 for use with the PlayStation 3 and were available during the motion renaissance that also featured the Nintendo Wii Remote and Microsoft Kinect.
The PlayStation Move controller (or wand) had inertial sensors that could detect motion and a big orb the top that could change colors and was used for tracking by the PlayStation Eye or PlayStation Camera.
In our review of the PlayStation Move, we said it had “the potential to be the best motion control system on the current crop of consoles; but unfortunately, the games offered at the moment just don’t do the technology justice.”
Following its launch, Move support was included in such big titles as Killzone 3, Dead Space: Extraction, Gran Turismo 5, and more. Many of these utilized various other accessories like the Navigation controller that would add another analog stick, the PlayStation Move Sharp Shooter that was a gun controller with a slot for the Move, and the PlayStation Move Racing Wheel.
The PlayStation Move Wand would continue to work with the PlayStation 4, and it came back as a controller option for PlayStation VR.
The DualShock 4 was released alongside the PlayStation 4 in 2013 and featured not only a capacitive front touchpad and motion detection but also a light bar on the top of the controller that could illuminate in many different colors.
The light bar, while it would flash red and blue when the cops were chasing you in GTA V or would mimic Alien Isolation’s motion tracker, was also designed with PlayStation VR in mind. This caused issues before launch of PlayStation’s VR headset because no one really understood why this light bar was needed and Sony wasn’t willing to reveal all its secrets quite yet.
“The tracking light… it was our department that said we need that on,” said SCEE senior designer Jed Ashforth. “It was for tracking for VR, and when all these things were coming out six months ago and everyone was going ‘it’s reflecting in my TV,’ we were going ‘oh no’ because we couldn’t tell anyone what it was for.”
The START and SELECT buttons seen in all previous PlayStation controllers were replaced by the OPTIONS and SHARE buttons, respectively. The SHARE button allows players to quickly upload screenshots, videos, and more.
The twin joysticks were adjusted and, like the Dual Analog controller, have recessed grooves. The L2 and R2 buttons were more curved and outward-facing than the Dualshock 3’s style.
Around the time the PlayStation 4 Pro was launched in 2016, Sony released an upgraded version of the DualShock 4 that allowed for play while connected to a USB cable (THANK you!) and the ability to see the light bar on the top of the touchpad.
The PlayStation 5 controller has been revealed, and its called the DualSense. It is said to “bring a sense of touch to PS5 gameplay,” and will keep many of the DualShock 4 features while adding new functionality and a refined design.
The DualSense will have much more advanced haptic feedback and adaptive triggers for the L2 and R2 buttons.
The haptic feedback will add “a variety of powerful sensations you’ll feel when you play, such as the slow grittiness of driving a car through mud.” The Adaptive triggers, meanwhile, will help you “feel the tension of your actions, like when drawing a bow to shoot an arrow.”
Additionally, the SHARE button from the DualShock 4 will be replaced by the CREATE button, although Sony isn’t ready to fully detail what this change will mean.
The DualSense also features a two-toned design, a departure from previous controllers. The light bar will also now be found on either side of the touchpad.
After years of PlayStation fans hoping for an answer to Microsoft’s Xbox Elite Controller, Sony has finally announced the DualSense Edge wireless controller for PlayStation 5, the “first-ever high-performance, ultra-customizable controller developed by Sony Interactive Entertainment.”
While we still don’t have a release date or price, Sony has shared a few initial details, including that it will allow players to remap or deactivate certain inputs, fine-tune their aim by changing stick sensitivity and dead zones, and adjust the “travel distance” of the triggers. If you were hoping to customize your controller for specific games, Sony has confirmed there will be a way to save multiple control profiles, and switch between them even when you are in the middle of a game.
The DualSense Edge will come packaged with three types of swappable stick caps – standard, high dome, and low dome – and two swappable sets of back buttons – half-dome and lever – to help each user create their ideal controller. The back buttons also can be assigned to function as any other button input.
The DualSense Edge will retain all the features of the standard DualSense, including haptic feedback, adaptive triggers, built-in microphone, and motion controls, and each controller will come with a USB Type-C braided cable and a carrying case that allows for the controller to be charged when it is inside.
Updated August 24, 2022 to reflect the DualSense Edge’s announcement
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Adam Bankhurst is a news writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamBankhurst and on Twitch.