Development kits surfaced across the web yesterday, and spread like wild-fire, of the upcoming Sony PlayStation 4 and its controller prototype that has been confirmed by multiple sources as being the real deal. While the PlayStation 4 itself has not been refined in the photos to the point that would be sold to the public (more just a computer tower with the components of the PlayStation 4 inside), the controller looks to be a simplistic version, in its design and layout, lacking only the polish that we will more than likely see next Wednesday (February 20th, 2013). The controller is a larger variation than we have seen on any PlayStation controller to date, far more than the simple change of adding two analog sticks to the PlayStation One controller. More than just the modifications we have seen, the new controller is a necessary and sensible evolution of the PlayStation remote and a reflection of the overall direction of the gaming market. It just flat out makes sense.
When looking at the new controller, the biggest change that we see right off the bat is the trackpad or touchpad at the top of the controller. While Sony has done a nice job with the ability on the PlayStation 3 of using the chat pad as the trackpad as well, allowing easier navigation for things like internet use, the ChatPad not only adds extra bulk making the controller top heavy, but also took an extra $50 out of your wallet as well. While there is no doubt that these controllers will run a pretty penny to buy a second for friends and family to game with you, the DualShock 3 and a ChatPad costs over $100! Maybe they do come out at $99.99 on the next generation system for a second controller, but its still cheaper than then two together will run you for the same function on the current generation PS3. The navigation, or touch, pad on the new controller also opens the door to welcoming Android or iOS ports to the PS4 as well. This would make sense with systems like the GameStick and Ouya trying to grab their share of the console market. The PlayStation 4 then has a bigger chance to capture the more casual audience, something that was expected from the Move, but was never fully embraced. While tablets are more portable and certainly have an appeal because of that, their is no doubt that playing Temple Run, with the same controls as you would on its native devices, on a 50″ TV would be awfully appealing and may result in more people jumping on the console bandwagon.
Another noticeable change to the controller is the concave design of the analog sticks and their spacing. The controller looks to have a larger gap between that of the normal PlayStation formula, and the one that is seen in the pictures for the new. The layout of the sticks enables faster movements from the Joysticks to face buttons or D-Pad, which should enable more comfort during gaming sessions. There always has been a large support group for the PlayStation DualShock controller, but personally a change like this makes the controller a much more enticing piece of equipment for me. I like the fact that my hands don’t feel like they are unnaturally positioned, something that I never could quite get over with the DualShock 2 and 3. The other big change is the concave design of the top of the Joysticks. Many gamers have long complained about the fact that the convex design of the original joysticks caused a lot of slipping and sliding during longer play sessions because their hands and fingers had began to sweat, but that doesn’t look to be a problem with these. While likely coated with the same material as the old, the new controller with its inward slope will make for snug fit which means less screaming and yelling someone just killed you in Call of Duty because your finger slid off the left or right thumb stick.
Then there is that glowing object at the top of the newly designed controller, which is eerily similar to that of the Move’s top glowing ball. Presumably, this would be the next advancement of the Move and integration of the two together. While this has some pros and some cons, the biggest factor is that, if it is a truly a motion device, you wont need more controllers just laying around and costing you more money either. This also may have a larger appeal to more hardcore gamers as it allows them to keep a “controller” feel but still enjoy accurate motion controls. Sony seemed to toy with this idea with the Sixaxis controllers that the original PS3’s came with, but abandoned it quickly with the public outcry for the DualShock rumble. The greater feature of the motion may come in the form of being able to quickly navigate or scroll around pages on the web, moving faster through Netflix and other apps, or navigating the PlayStation Home screen as well. If other prototypes have any validity it would make sense that a seemingly unlikely letter from SECA (Sony Entertainment Company of America) to their new marketing firm, that made waves across the web a few days prior, then it would be that of the new PlayStation 4 Controller, which would be called the SplitShock, simply pulling apart and allow gamers to experience in-game movements with both hands. This would also lend creditability to the blueprint of the Sony Patent depicting the more noticeable glowing balls atop the controller, yet still breaking apart in the middle to allow full body control.
While all of these changes may prove to be integrations between all the separate controllers that are a part of the PlayStation 3, the exciting new development is that of the Share button and the rumored 4GB’s of internal memory within the controller. Though the share button doesn’t seem to be shown on the prototype, there really is no reason for developers to need the functionality of that button. If Sony had added it to the dev. kits it would have taken more time to place the button and the memory in each, delaying the chance for them to get the system out as quickly as possible. You can see next to the touchpad toward the top a rectangular shape outlined which would be a sensible location in both placement and functionality of the button. There would be no reason to place it in a spot that would create issues for gamers, or bumping it when they didn’t mean to. The extra memory inside the controller is said to allow the system to record data to it, and not interrupt the players current game. This is a fun new way to connect with you friends and the other PlayStation players around the web showing off your mad skills.
The speaker within the controller below the pad and the headphone jack in the bottom seem to be adapted from that of the original Wiimote and the XBOX 360 controller respectively. The speaker could allow for gamers to hear people through the controller rather than the TV which can get very annoying during online play. It also may allow for Kinect-like interactions when chatting online with friends through the likely successor to the PlayStation eye camera.. Another function that could be seen from the speaker is the ability to connect the Vita to your PS4 controller and use it for gaming. The Vita is an amazing system, but during extended play times the small joysticks can cause some frustrating moments. The speaker would then be able to add extra sound to the Vita or act as the dominate speaker. The headphone jack on the other hand would allow gamers a cheaper alternative to the Bluetooth headsets that the PlayStation 3 uses and allow them to use ones similar to that of an XBOX 360 headset. While this makes sense, I would fully expect Sony to keep up with technology and keep Bluetooth as a viable option on the next system too.
While some questions still remain, like will Sony ever listen and give us some triggers already, there are few questions after seeing the new design that Sony is moving in the right direction with the maturation of the newest remote. The controllers design, layout, and functions make sense; combining tablet, motion, and traditional gameplay functions into one compact device. There is no doubt that it’s different, and some will prefer that of the old, but if these pictures are a solid representation of what is to be unveiled in less than a week, then the PS4 would be starting off one step ahead of the rest. The combination of multiple devices and integrating them into one recognizable and functional design for all to use, whether novice or advanced, proves that Sony isn’t simply attempting to see dollar signs, but instead listening to gamers and what they want. Something a company that has been struggling financially would be wise to do.
Bravo Sony, bravo.