Sony says it considered redesigning its Playstation controller to be more like that of the Xbox. It settled on the more familiar layout, though has made some tweaks to favor shooter games over those for drivers.
The revelations comes from Sony’s Toshimasa Aoki, the man in charge of designing the PS4 controllers. In a lengthy and detailed interview with GamesBeat, he says that unlike with previous consoles, where the company simply looked for any necessary tweaks, this time round Sony experimented by designing a couple of dozen prototypes starting from scratch.
Among these were models where one or both analog thumbpads were in the top corners of the front of the controller, similar to the controllers for the Xbox 360 and Wii U respectively. The idea was to please gamers who said they preferred the Xbox controller for playing shooters.
In the end, though, testing found that although players could try to adjust to the new designs, the big problem was that moving the right stick changed the distance between the stick and the most-used face button (the X) and that this was too much of a mental barrier to overcome. With the right stick confirmed as being in its usual position, Sony decided that although the left stick placement didn’t affect gameplay so much, it wanted to keep it in place for the sake of a symmetrical look.
Sony did make some changes to help fans of shooters though. Aoki noted the PS3 controller’s thumbsticks, which have a convex (domed) design were made that way after testing on Gran Turismo, the idea being that it was much lighter to use than the PS2 controller, in turn making steering less of a physical chore.
With the PS4, the top of the sticks is a ridge surrounding a depressed, flat center; to put in another way, a Werther’s Original. The idea is that you can rest your thumbs on the center and get a more precise control because the stick is stiffer to move. If you opt to push from the outside, for example in games that need faster and less precise movement, the new design should be more comfortable because the edges are smoother.
The rest of the controller has some minor changes as well. The directional pad buttons now dip towards the center, which is meant to make it more comfortable to rest your thumb as well as giving each direction a more distinctive feel. Meanwhile the L2 and R2 buttons are bigger and flatter: partly to give a trigger-like feel for shooter games and partly so you can lay down the controller on a table without accidentally pressing the buttons.