DualSense PS5 controller front

DualShock is dead – all hail the DualSense – what matters and what doesn’t from Sony’s next-gen controller and what it tells us about PS5

By now you’ve certainly seen the new PlayStation controller splattered across your social networks, with images of it, alongside a thousand recoloured versions, having poured forth across the internet. With that black and white colour scheme being the most immediate and most discussed aspect of the new design.

But more on that later, let’s look at the bits that matter to developers: the microphone, the new triggers and the implications of the moving light bar.

The built-in microphone is undoubtedly the single most important aspect of the new design. For developers to know that every player has a microphone to hand is a huge boon and in more ways than is immediately obvious.

Yes, it should see more people talking in traditional multiplayer games (though the use of pings etc in the likes of Apex and Warzone have already solved a big part of that problem). But it also opens up voice commands and interaction in solo and party games like never before – although only in exclusive titles of course, as Microsoft has not followed suit in this regard.

DualSense PS5 controller – which frankly looks much better from this angle we think

Of course, not everything is new and unique, as Phil Spencer noted of the new Xbox controller’s share button: “We’re not the first ones to do [this], so we’re not going to say that we invented that.” Sony for its part is adding ‘adaptive triggers’ which sound much like the ones the Xbox One has been touting for some time. Good to have parity in this area for cross-platform development.

Speaking of buttons, there are no (oddly) no pictures of the underside of the DualSense. We theorised that the recently launched DualShock 4 Back Button Attachment, so late in the console cycle, might suggest that the new controller had rear-mounted buttons – which have become ubiquitous on esports-styled designs. But there’s no sign of that here, though.

Finally, on the design front, we see the moving of the light, so it appears to be facing the player, rather than shining towards the console, and the PlayStation Camera accessory. This connected the DualShock 4 design to the PSVR design, but unless the very tiny amount of light around the edges of the pad is sufficient, or there’s something we’re missing, then this functionality looks to have been abandoned, which may be the first tangible signal of the death of Sony’s console VR dream.

“This may be the first tangible signal of the death of Sony’s console VR dream.”

The only final note here is to reiterate the long-running discussion about whether players’ current DualShock 4 controllers will be compatible with the new console. The current controllers do work with PS5 devkits, unsurprisingly, but a confirmation in this area would be a huge relief for anyone working on a game with couch co-op support, which could otherwise by hamstrung by a new device requiring many, new, expensive controllers. Our gut says that surely there must be compatibility, but then controllers are a good revenue generator.

STORMTROOPER CHIC

Right, moving to the appearance and marketing aspects: Welcome to the era of the DualSense.

After 23 years using the DualShock brand, Sony has moved onto pastures anew. One one hand it seems unwise, why drop a long-running brand like DualShock for something that really doesn’t say much more. It’s notable that this swaps one DS for another DS and we can see this controller being referred to as the DS5 despite the fact it’s really a new DS entirely.

All that said, I’ve never heard anyone say: ‘I had to go and buy a new DualShock’. With ‘PlayStation controller’ being the far more ubiquitous term, at least to my ears in the UK.

And finally, what does that colour choice tell us about the console itself?

It’s certainly bold, given that black and white likely won’t please anyone entirely. Presuming that it forewarns that the console itself will also have a two-tone colour scheme – that would set it even more clearly between the all-black Xbox Series X and the (very likely) white of its lesser (and yet to be announced) Xbox Series S sibling.

Finally, we continue to be a little surprised at these low-key announcements from Sony. By the time they announce the PS5 itself, there’s going to be little to show but the box. And with no ‘true exclusive’ titles yet hinted at for launch, it’s an interesting strategy. Some have pointed out that Sony has games to sell this year, and so doesn’t want to distract from those, but it’s not like we’re hearing a lot about those either, so then it should surely be making a bit more noise about its incredible new console.

About Seth Barton

Seth Barton is the editor of MCV – which covers every aspect of the industry: development, publishing, marketing and much more. Before that Seth toiled in games retail at Electronics Boutique, studied film at university, published console and PC games for the BBC, and spent many years working in tech journalism. Living in South East London, he divides his little free time between board games, video games, beer and family. You can find him tweeting @sethbarton1.

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