Before the PlayStation 5 was officially announced, rumors and leaks suggested that the next PlayStation controller would have an LCD screen embedded in it. Upon first hearing this I wasn’t too excited because the touchpad was a failed experiment. The idea of a screen in the controller gave me ‘Wii U’ vibes.
I always enjoy a new controller. Often, the controller is what “makes” a next-generation console next generation. Just look at the Wii Remote. After all, the controller is the part of any new console you interact with the most.
Does the DualSense have a screen? The official controller for the PlayStation 5 is called the DualSense. The DualSense does not come with a screen. Sony has moved away from the DualShock naming convention. This signals Sony’s new direction, focusing on haptic feedback.
The DualShock 4 for the PlayStation 4 featured a touchpad. Unfortunately, due to lack of implementation by many developers, it may as well be an additional d-pad. It was relegated to the ‘open map button’ in most games. So maybe making this area a screen as well may have given the idea a new lease of life. It could have forced developers to try something new and interesting.
Read on to find out where the rumors of a touch screen started? And would it have been practical for Sony to include such a controversial piece of technology into every controller?
Did the PS5 prototype controller have a screen?
The road to the PlayStation 5 was full of all sorts of speculation.
This was before we knew about the name of the DualSense. Back when it was looking likely that the PlayStation 5 would come with a new DualShock 5.
After all, Sony doesn’t throw us many surprises when it comes to their naming conventions. People were making fun of the new PlayStation 5 logo because it was the same as the PS4 with just the number changed.
So the safe money would have been on the new controller being called the DualShock 5.
Here’s where things start to get interesting.
The first leaked images that claimed to be from a PlayStation 5 prototype showed a DualShock-like controller with what appeared to be a glossy touchpad/screen. It was bulkier than the DualShock 4, leading people to ask why? What else was in the controller?
Most responses guessed it was a screen, why else was the touch area so glossy?
Putting a screen in a controller isn’t a new idea.
After all, the Dreamcast’s memory card attachment, the VMU, had a screen. So if Sony has added a screen it wouldn’t have been the first or even unheard of in the gaming community. The Dreamcast version even lets you play games such as a Tamagotchi-like pet experience. It all depended on the game you were playing. The screen had a resolution of 48 by 32 pixels. That’s only 1,536 pixels in total. For comparison, a 4K TV screen has 8.3 million pixels.
Nowadays if Sony had wanted to embed an LCD screen in the PS5’s controller the resolution would have had to have been far superior. Just think about the type of screen we have on our phones. But, as anybody with a smartphone can tell you, the better the screen the worst the battery life.
With the DualShock 4 only having a four to eight-hour battery life, a screen would have essentially meant that you would have had to play plugged in most of the time. For me, the move to wireless controllers has been one of the biggest innovations. A screen would have put the wireless dream into doubt.
Would Sony really be prepared to go down that path? Sony’s record is a bit hit and miss when it comes to adding new ideas.
Sony has been known to experiment with controllers during pre-production. If you jump into your personal time machine (what, you don’t have one?) and dial the clock back to when giant PS3s ruled the Earth, you might remember the gray boomerang controllers.
Sony quickly promised they weren’t the controllers that would ship with the PS3. Sony was, apparently, just showing them off for no good reason. (Talk about a quick u-turn.)
Sony only threw more wood on the fire, by patenting the idea of a screen embedded in a touchpad for a controller.
Where did the rumors of a screen in the PS5 controller start?
Sony patented the idea.
Now to be fair, Sony patents a lot of ideas all the time. It is something all big tech companies do from Intel to Google.
The idea that the controller could display useful information sounds great.
However, the ‘Wii U’ proved that it is not something gamers are interested in.
But did you know Sony already sort of did this with the ‘PlayStation Vita’ (PSV). You could use the PSV as a controller for the PS4. You could even use it to play the game via remote play. A wildly under-appreciated feature.
With Sony patenting a lot of ideas, some of them are bound to end up in the new controller. Sony seems to have lots of ideas, from a move style controller that can break in half to adding biometrics.
This doesn’t mean that Sony will follow through with every idea. They are just prototypes.
Both Sony and Microsoft always keep their cards close to their chest. Maybe they just patent things to keep the competition on their toes. Or just to keep their options open, so they can quickly react if they need to.
Realistically, console manufacturers only make small incremental changes to their controllers, because the audience doesn’t really want change. Or at least they don’t want world-turned-up-side-down change.
People like slow incremental change. Whether they know it or not. ANd corporations like Sony and Microsoft understand this.
You only have to look at all the negative feedback Microsoft and Sony get every time they try to implement a big change in their controller. Every change is usually met with people complaining, even if they eventually come to love the controller.
Both seem happy to leave Nintendo to do the crazy stuff.
Will Sony add a screen for an elite controller?
Sony added a paddles add-on to the PS4 controller, so nothing is out of the realm of possibility.
If Sony does decide to make an Elite controller, I think it will follow the Xbox route. By having customizable options, as opposed to any radical redesigns.
If Sony adds a screen to any future controller for use on the PlayStation 5 it will mean developers spending some of its resources to implement new features for only a small number of people.
This is the main reason the Xbox Kinect failed, because it wasn’t shipped with every box from the start, developers didn’t have an incentive to make the most of it.
Would a touch LCD screen be any good?
Sony does like to experiment, just look at the touchpad and the share button. Microsoft is even implementing their own version of the share button for the new Xbox Series X and S.
The real innovation of the DualSense is haptic feedback. Which will have a ‘day-one’ impact on how we, as gamers, will experience games.
Every gun in ‘Call of Duty: Cold War feels different, not just by how it handles in-game but how the trigger feels to squeeze.
I doubt that a screen would have had that big a difference to moment-to-moment gameplay. After all, we all look at the screen, not the controller, when we play.
Yes, it might have been nice, to maybe have some UI elements move from their large TV to the controller to declutter the screen for better immersion. But at what cost?
The drain on the battery would have been huge. Meaning spending more time playing with them plugged in charging.
It would have put the cost of the stand-alone controller up considerably. The DualShock 4 is $60. Imagine how expensive it would be with a small LCD screen.
Most people would have cried out for a way to turn it off to save battery. Especially if some games didn’t implement it to a satisfactory level. That is exactly what happened with the Light Bar on the DualShock 4, and that was only a small LED light.
The DualSense controller for the PlayStation 5 does not have an embedded screen. It is only a touchpad.
This doesn’t mean that the DualSense has no new features. Quite the contrary, the DualSense is one of the most innovative controllers on the market when it comes to haptic feedback. This is accomplished with a combination of rumble embedded into the handgrips as well as force feedback triggers.
The rumors that the DualSense would have a screen started due to some fake leaks. People were also quick to jump on some of Sony’s patents regarding controller touch screen technology.
You never know with Sony, maybe the PlayStation 6 will finally be the one that implements the screen.
It may even be an e-ink screen…
Will the DualSense work on PS4? No, The DualSense will only work with the PlayStation 5. There is no real reason for this. Sony could patch the PS4 to make the DualSense work but it would not be very high on their priorities, if at all.
Does the DualShock4 work on the PS5? Only under certain circumstances. The DualShock 4 will not work with PlayStation 5 games. You can use it when playing any PlayStation 4 backward compatible game. This is because Sony wants developers to implement features for the DualSense with every PlayStation 5 game. Not knowing which controller players were using would have confused the matter.
How to tell which DualSense is the first player if using more than one controller? Under the touchpad is a series of 4 white LED lights. The number of white lights signifies which player designation. The DualSense will also change color, but this might not be a universal color system and might depend on the game.