Rumours say Sony is Dropping the DualShock Controller for the PS4

broken-ps3-controllerIt appears the folks in charge of designing Sony’s PlayStation 4 live by Red Green’s philosophy of if it ain’t broke, you’re not trying. A recent report on CVG says that Sony will radically change their traditional DualShock analog controller for one that will include a touchscreen on the front and biometric sensors built into the grips.

Sony’s use of touchscreens and biometrics is not a surprise. They integrated front and rear touchscreens on the PlayStation Vita portable console. Last Sepetember, a Sony patent that integrated biometrics into their controllers was discovered. That one has yet to be integrated into Sony controllers but that may change if this rumour is correct.

That Sony would introduce touch controls isn’t surprising. The dual touchscreen idea on the Vita didn’t seem like such a bad idea. However, the key to that sentence is that it has dual touchscreens. It would be annoying to take one hand off the controls to swipe the front of the screen. With the rear touchscreen, you have the option of wrapping your middle finger under the console to swipe without letting go of the face or shoulder buttons.

sony-ps4-controller-concept-gadgehitIt’s worth pointing out that if Sony was to go with a touchscreen, it would be the second time that a Nintendo console was the first mover in a gaming technology. The Wii is largely credited with popularizing motion controls which Sony attempted to copy with the PlayStation Move. The Wii U’s GamePad famously uses a larch touchscreen at its centre. If I was to hazard a guess, I would think that the PS4 controller will be something closer to the classic PlayStation controller rather than a total departure from the norm like the Wii U GamePad.

The popularity of integrating biometric scanners into controllers is has been growing recently. Both Sony and Valve’s Gabe Newell have expressed interest in biometric controllers as the next step in controller technology given the general failure of Microsoft’s Kinect to do any of what it was advertised to do.

While some gamers and members of the gaming press are understandably quite concerned of the possibility of Sony completely redesigning their already very good controller, I don’t think it’s likely to be a redesign from scratch. It’s likely to be something close to that fan-made concept image above. After all, there’s not much wrong with the current DualShock 3 controller apart from it needing to be a bit bigger.

Ideally, if Sony wants to integrate touchscreens, they’ll be front and back like on the PS Vita. It’s likely that the controller will increase in size to accommodate a touchscreen. The backlash will come if the new controller is so big that you have to take your hand off the controller to use the touchscreen like the front touchscreen of the Vita. I’m not sure how Sony intends for the biometrics to be integrated into games but no doubt there will be some first party games to show the technology off.

The report on CVG also suggests that the PlayStation 4 will be unveiled in a matter of weeks rather than months. Previously, it was expected that Sony would unveil the PS4 at their E3 keynote in June. More recently, rumours have suggested that the console would be debuted sometime between February and May with the E3 presentation used to announce launch titles and show off big games coming to the console.

However, yesterday in The Times, Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai hinted that he might let Microsoft make the first move when it comes to next-gen consoles. Whether this means that he’ll let Microsoft announce the Xbox 720 and let the details out or a year’s delay on the console launch, we don’t know yet. However, I don’t think that releasing the PS3 a year behind the 360 did Sony’s sales much good. Higher power and a more reliable console doesn’t negate a first mover advantage.

Cross-posted from et geekera.

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