Sony tested quite a few designs for the PS4 controller, including one which resembled the Xbox stick layout, with one stick in place of the digital pad. Naturally, it was familiarity that won over – two sticks and face buttons are a DualShock staple, but there were many “out there” ideas as they brainstormed.
Speaking to VentureBeat in an exclusive interview, product planning manager Toshimasa Aoki said “we were thinking of drastically changing the controller” from the beginning, and they made more than twenty prototypes – some which were round, some without buttons and “all this crazy stuff”.
A lot of the ideas took inspiration from other places, including Microsoft’s Xbox stick layout: “we did test having the analog sticks on top, since the Xbox has the left side on top. Especially from the shooter teams — we got feedback that that’s what they wanted. They knew that consumers liked the 360 for shooters”.
They even moved the sticks so that it was similar to the Wii U’s Pro Controller and GamePad, with the sticks above the buttons, and their prototype was actually quite similar to the Pro layout, so much that they were surprised when it was revealed – “When Nintendo came out with that, we were like, ‘Wow, that’s just like our prototype!’ That surprised us. But yeah, we decided that it just wouldn’t work.”
It seems the developers had a role in the layout too, with Tommy de Roos of Guerrilla Games saying “we tried to push the things we really wanted forward. Every studio pushed for their own thing. We pushed for the headphone jack.” while confirming that DriveClub developers wanted better gyro controls.
They would only decide on something if the majority of developers agreed, realising that they had to create a controller to work over a multitude of genres and control schemes. They even tried out a touch screen, but developers and teams “to have the consumers concentrated on the big picture that they show”.
That touch screen might have even replaced the face buttons, but that was quickly rejected with a huge majority vote. But no, the current touch pad works and “developers love the touchpad, but only as the secondary input”.