The other day, while at my friends house playing Call of Duty, I noticed something very odd.
My friend’s controller seemed to have extenders attached to the thumbsticks to make them longer.
Now, I’d heard of thumbstick extenders before and I always wondered: Do these extenders actually work? Do they make you better at shooter or driving games? Or, are they like many other gaming accessories: a gimmick.
I asked my friend and he said he’d been using them since he’d been gaming on his original Xbox back in 2002. He said they made him more accurate and gave him more control when aiming.
To me, this sounds great. I’m absolutely terrible at Call of Duty, with my K/D ratio languishing at 0.5. Not good. So any “short-cut” I could take to improve my game, I’d throw myself at.
So, after losing for the umteenth time on COD, I went home to research these thumbstick extenders.
Here’s what I found:
Do thumbstick extenders work? Yes, the extenders increase the distance your thumb has to travel to fully engage the analogue stick making them less sensitive. The thumbstick extenders give you more control which in turn gives more accuracy when aiming or turning a car in game.
Ok, now you have a basic answer, let’s take a look at what thumbstick extenders can do for you in more depth.
How Do Thumbstick Extensions Work To Improve Your Game?
Thumbstick extensions work by simply extending the length of the thumbstick. They often clip on top of an existing thumbstick, be it Xbox or Playstation, and add 10-15 mm to the stick length.
But what does this do for you when gaming?
Well, extending the length of the thumbstick has one major effect on the gameplay:
It increases accuracy and control due to increased range of motion.
Let me explain how this works…
Thumbstick Extenders Offer Increased Accuracy And Control Due To Increased Range Of Motion
When you push on an analogy stick, most can be pushed to a maximum angle of between 22.5 and 45 degrees.
To keep this simple, we’ll pretend the analogue stick only works in 1 dimension, left to right. And the lengths are slightly exaggerated.
When you place your thumb on the stick it’s about 2 cm from the thumbstick pivot point. The pivot point is housed inside the controller.
That means that your thumb, when moving from left to right, is effectively traveling across the edge of a circle that has a circumference of 12.5 cm.
So to travel 45 degrees, your thumb has to move 1.5cm to push the analogue stick all the way to maximum.
So what does this mean for gameplay?
Well, it means that all the different levels of on screen movement and acceleration when turning have to take place in that tiny 1.5cm movement range. Tiny movements of your thumb are exaggerated which means aiming can be, in my case, very inaccurate. A small change in angle of the thumbstick translates to a big movement on screen.
Now, what happens if you increase the length of the stick by say 1.5 cm? Making the analogue stick 3.5 cm in length.
Well, it means your thumb is effectively moving along the edge of the circle that has grown in circumference to 22 cm. 10 cm more than the shorter analogue stick.
So what does this mean for aiming?
Well, it means in a 45 degree arc when moving a stick, your thumb is now moving 2.75 cm instead of 1.5cm. So you have nearly doubled the distance your thumb needs to move to get the same amount of on screen movement.
This effectively means the “window” for your thumb to aim correctly has nearly doubled in size. So instead of a small change in angle of the thumbstick translating to a big movement on screen, a small change in angle now translates to a small movement on screen.
This increase of 15mm in stick hight increases perceived accuracy by as much as 83.3% over a normal length analogue stick.
Another way of looking at this is by looking at the steering wheel of a car. A car offers about 900 degrees of rotation on the steering wheel. This means that a large movement of the steerwheel corresponds to a small turn of the wheels on the road. This gives you a lot of control. You know that if you turn the wheel by 45 degrees, the car will only turn a small amount so you can be very precise.
But say you reverse this and only have 90 degrees of rotation on the steering wheel instead of 900 degrees. The steering is effectively 10 times more sensitive. Meaning you have to be 10 times more accurate with your movement.
This means a small movement of the steering wheel will correspond to a large movement of the wheels on the road. This would decrease control drastically, which would make the steering too sensitive.
This is effectively what a longer analogue stick does on a controller.
The positives for this in gameplay are nearly endless.
For example, in Forza it’s easier to hit the perfect angle on the stick to turn smoothly through a corner instead of pulsing the stick “on/off” as you move through the corner.
In Call of Duty, you can far more easily find the sweet spot on the analogue stick where you are tracking your enemy across the screen perfectly.
And that is the holy grail of game controllers: to give you more control and accuracy when gaming.
Next, I’ll take a look at one of the thumbstick extenders I use.
What are the best thumbstick extenders to buy?
Ok, you’ve made it this far, so I’m going to assume that you’re interested in extending your controller thumbsticks.
I’m not surprised given the massive increase in control they can give you.
But how can you extend your thumbsticks?
It’s actually really simple.
You can buy clip on thumbstick extenders that fit on to the top of the normal thumbsticks
Ok let’s take a look at this option in more detail.
Clip-On Thumbstick Extenders
The best, cheapest, and easiest to install option, while maintaining quality, is clip-on thumbstick extenders.
And the best I have found are those made by KontrolFreek. The extenders you can see above are designed to extend the length of your thumbsticks in a minimally intrusive way.
Unlike thumbstick replacements, these just clip-on in seconds and can be unclipped just as quickly.
You may notice in the image above that one stick is longer than the other. The longer stick is generally used where you need the most precision and control. So in an FPS it would be your aiming stick. And in a racing game it would be the left steering stick.
The longer of the two thumbstick extensions increases the height of the thumbstick by 11.3mm. On the Playstation the normal analogue stick length, from the point of pivot from inside the controller, is 15mm.
So the KontrolFreek thumbstick extenders give you a total analogue thumbstick length, with the extension, of 26.3mm. That’s a 75% increase in height. But, more importantly, it’s a massive 75% increase in control and accuracy.
These stick extenders will make you a better gamer.
They did with me:
On Gran Turismo Sport I decreased all my times in the training tests by 0.24 seconds on average. And online, my average final position in races has improved by 5-6 places. So instead of finishing around 10th position I’m finishing 5th and sometimes even 4th. This is because the extra length of the stick helps me drive through corners more smoothly.
In Call of Duty, my K/D ratio has increased by around 0.25 in the 50 games or so games I’ve played with the extenders on. Considering my K/D ratio was around 0.5 to start with, that’s a huge increase. For me anyway. Especially considering my 0.5 K/D ratio was formed over 1000+ games. So the extenders helped me improve my K/D ratio by 50% in only 5%, or 50, extra games.
But a word a warning:
These stick’s will not turn you into a world class gamer overnight. Even though I held out great hope they would.
They will turn an average gamer into a good gamer with a few days practice. And a good gamer into a great gamer with a couple of weeks of practice.
They might even make you feel confident enough to start that Youtube gaming or streaming channel you’ve always dreamed of making.
But don’t take my word for it, take a look at what some of these people are saying…
“Gives a much better feel of control due to the increased range of motion the elevated stick provides.”Lavan Sivapalan, Amazon review
“These performance thumbsticks are clearly working. I’m never playing a game without them again.”Craig Lloyd, Review Geek.
And that’s just a small sample of the thousands of 5 and 10 star reviews that these thumbstick extenders have had.
Be sure to get the right extenders for your console! The Xbox and PS4 controller sticks are slightly different making extenders incomparable with different controllers.
Also, the KontrolFreek extenders should be compatible with the next gen consoles: The Xbox Series X and the PS5. So they are future proofed!
Take a look at the KontrolFreek FPS Freek Vortex Thumbstick extenders for PlayStation 4 here.
Take a look at the KontrolFreek FPS Freek Vortex thumbstick extenders for Xbox One here.
Thumbstick extenders do work.
When testing them out, I consistently improved times and K/D rations in every game I played after only a couple of days of practice.
As I said above, do not go in thinking these thumbstick extenders will turn you into a world class pro gamer overnight. They won’t. But with a little practice, they will make you a better gamer.
My own experience playing Gran Tourismo and COD prove that. And next, I’m going to try an extender while playing FIFA. See if it improves my precision dribbling skills!
So the bottom line is this: The thumbstick extenders work. They’ll improve your accuracy and control. Just be sure to practice with them for a few days.
Does it make a difference if an analogue stick’s top is concave or convex? I would say that a convex stick is naturally slightly longer than a concave stick. However, the difference this makes to the overall thumbsticks length is very small. I would just pick a stick style that you prefer and, pardon the pun, stick with that.
Does the material the analogue stick is made from make difference? Metal thumbsticks are heavier, which means they take more energy to accelerate decelerate when they are moving. This is because the increased weight means the stick has more inertia to overcome. So you might find your gameplay slows down slightly if you pick a heavier thumbstick material as your muscles have to work harder to move it. As a general rule of thumb, when it comes to performance, the lighter you can make something, the better it will perform. So pick light materials.