The most personal part of your console playing experience is almost certainly the controller. Not only is the controller the only part of the console that you clasp your claws around, but it is also your gateway into whatever game you are playing. The inputs you put through the controller manifest themselves milliseconds or less later on the screen. The controller needs to be simultaneously tailored to your play style, and you need to tailor yourself to your controller.
I have two old Dualshock 4’s from when I received my shiny new PS4 the day after release day, (thanks for nothing Amazon Prime) and both of them are slightly different. I know instinctively that one of the controllers has a slightly firmer R2 button, perfect for a racing game, where I need more feel through my throttle button. Conversely, for a First-person shooter, the slower push of the R2 button is not ideal, but I am no-good at FPS’s anyway. My other controller has a more used analogue stick, useless for action oriented games, but not bad for walking simulators or turn based battlers like Firewatch or Persona 5.
Changing my controller to suit the game I am playing is nothing new, but it highlights the bond we share with our controllers. People will know, immediately, when they pick up another controller, that it is no good. It could be as simple as it just doesn’t feel right, or as nerdy as the trigger movement being a bit off. This closeness with a controller is not limited to the competitive Esports players, casual players know their own controllers inside and out.
With the controller so essential to our gaming experience, it begs the question, and I will use Sony as an example as that is my go-to system, why can’t I personalise my controllers properly, Sony? Why can’t I buy an off the shelf, personalised Dualshock 4?
I know I can go and buy a Scuf controller, which is not officially licensed, or I could buy the Razer Raiju or the Nacom Revolution Pro. But, I don’t want a specialist controller with special paddles and hair triggers. (full disclosure, I do own a Razer Raiju) No, I want to go to Sony and buy a Dualshock 4 and customise it.
I want to make the shell purple and the grip green. I want to have the face buttons a beautiful block colour of yellow. I am aware that I can achieve my peculiar design desires with third parties, but why should I have to go to a third-party? Why is it so expensive? And why can’t Sony do it themselves?
The fact is, Sony either see no profit in custom controllers, elite or otherwise, or they don’t care. I hope it’s the former because that can change, but I fear it is the latter.
Either way, it is a shame. Sony could make a killing by allowing players to purchase their own personalised controller, with or without the little extras, like paddles and electronic remapping. Microsoft is halfway there with their Elite controller–you can’t customise the colour–Sony should surely, at the very least, test the waters. Maybe an elite controller, or a simple customization tool, before doing both.
To be fair to Sony, they do offer a multitude of different colours for the Dualshock 4, there are the reds, blues, silvers, golds and even hideous camouflage. But what about pink, orange, green, yellow–colours less popular but still desired? If they won’t let us customise, at least bring out every colour known to man, because that would be far more expensive to them than offering a customisation service and might facilitate a change in beliefs. One can dream. No?
Maybe it is just me. My PS4 and Laptop are covered in stickers, and I have dabbled in designing my own clothes (in fact I am typing this in a CZO Custom special T-shirt), but there are plenty of people out there who would want to have their own custom controller.
There is also a practical side to this. How many times have you taken your controller to a friends house, only to come back with the wrong one because they are all the ****ing same colour?
Coming home to discover that the controller you pull out of your bag not only feels different but has had someone else’s hands on it for the majority of its lifetime is disturbing for anyone. I have many friends, OK, some friends, and there is no way in hell I want to use their controller any longer than I have to, and I am the least germaphobic dude in the world.
Now, your friend might have a germ phobia that would make Sheldon Cooper blush, and therefore clean their controllers religiously, even so, it is still an unsettling proposition to use someone else’s controller, especially with no way of retrieving your own. Add to that the fact that the controller is probably worn in other, more bizarre, places, and your annoyance and disgust levels shoot up to Everest proportions.
How many arguments over whose controller is whose, revolving around the state of said controller, could be avoided if I turn up with my purple monstrosity? Even if it is in better condition, no one will want it.
As I have said before, gaming can be very personal for a lot of people, Sony’s mantra this generation has been For The Players. Well, why don’t they allow us players create a controller we want, rather than what they want? Oh, and don’t make it ridiculously expensive. We ain’t made of cash.