Sony has applied for a patent on a games console controller which could work on any console, including older machines and those produced by rival firms. The patent was filed in August 2008 but has only just been published by the US Patent Office.
The design appears to be based on the housing of existing PlayStation controllers, complete with shoulder buttons (L1, L2, R1 and R2). However, instead of fixed buttons on the front of the controller, it would have an LCD touchscreen. This would work along the lines of a “universal remote control” and could be set-up to store three different combinations of buttons for different consoles.
It appears from the filing that the designers were still making some decisions about the controller at the time (which isn’t unusual for an idea in development). For example, the filing notes the possibility that the arrow keypad (aka the D-pad) was used so widely on console controllers that it might make more sense to include in physical form.
The patent also notes the controller could not only sport Sony’s dual-shock vibration technology but could also feature speakers and even on-board storage. That would certainly make a good alternative to memory cards for game saves on older consoles and would be a neat way of allowing players to bring their own controller, and thus their own game history, when playing on a friend’s machine.
As well as cutting down on clutter in multi-console homes, it seems the main selling point of the device would be as a replacement controller for old machines no longer in production. The problem with that is that, for major retro consoles at least, controllers are still available second-hand on eBay for as little as a few bucks.
It’s also questionable how appropriate a touchscreen controller is for use with games designed for a physical controller featuring a stick. While touchscreens have worked well on some iPhone games, those games are usually specifically designed for that method of input.