One of the most important aspects of any gaming console is its controller. After all, a terrible controller can shoot down an otherwise respectable system, and an excellent controller can save a bad one. Nintendo’s Wii U was a slightly underpowered console, but it was a reasonable machine apart from its massive and unwieldy controller. Similarly, the GameCube lacked clout in the software department, but its controller was excellent. Of course, the ideal is a great controller and a great console, something Sony has been adept at providing over the years.
With that in mind, all eyes are now on what Sony will do with its newest console, the PlayStation 5. Since we now have official confirmation that the console exists and is coming to us in the 2020 holiday season, we know that development on the system’s hardware and peripherals is well underway. What will the PlayStation 5 look like? What will its hardware be capable of? We already have some answers to those questions, but some of them are less easy to pinpoint. For example: what will the controller, presumably to be named the DualShock 5, look like?
Well, if a recent PlayStation 4 controller innovation is anything to go by, we may have the answer to that question. Sony recently revealed the existence of a new Back Button Attachment for the current DualShock 4 controller. This attachment could well point towards a direction Sony is looking to go in for the PlayStation 5; the rumble motor and Sixaxis control schemes ended up making their way to the DualShock 4 after being implemented in the DualShock 3, so it’s fair to look to past generations for inspiration regarding the next one.
First, let’s take a look at what the Back Button Attachment is. Essentially, it’s a small addon accessory that you attach to the back of your DualShock 4. It doesn’t use the controller’s upper Micro USB connection; rather, it connects via the external port on the bottom. This port can be used for charging the controller, but it’s also where you plug in the PS4 keyboard and other peripherals. It makes a lot of sense for Sony to use this port, since you can charge your controller via Micro USB while you’re using the Back Button Attachment.
So, what exactly does the Back Button Attachment do? Simply put, it has two extra buttons to which you can assign any function that any of the existing buttons already perform. This gives you an extra place to press those buttons, which is perfect for competitive gaming and other disciplines. For example, you could assign the Square and Triangle buttons to the new Back Button Attachment, making them a little easier to reach while you’re using the triggers. Alternately, you could assign L1 and R1 to the Back Button Attachment, putting them closer to your fingers.
The Back Button Attachment also comes complete with an OLED screen that tells you which buttons you’ve assigned to the new peripheral. You can change this assignment at any time. In addition, you can store up to three different control profiles on the attachment and switch between them. Sony says the Back Button Attachment will work on any PlayStation 4 game, including VR titles, which is great news for anyone who plays competitive games or enjoys immersion. Put simply, we think the Back Button Attachment is just a great idea, full stop.
How does this relate to the PlayStation 5, though? Well, it’s no stretch to imagine that the DualShock 5 - if that is what it ends up being called - could feature something similar to the Back Button Attachment, only built into the controller. Sony’s ill-fated PlayStation Vita handheld featured a rear “touch screen”-style control input that had different functionality depending on the game you were playing, so it’s not even something that has no precedent within past Sony hardware. We’re looking forward to seeing what the Back Button Attachment does for the new controller.
Indeed, we may not have too long to wait on that front. Sony recently filed a patent that may point towards a new design philosophy for the DualShock 5. Effectively, the patent is for a controller with two extra buttons on its rear, so it’s not quite the Back Button Attachment implemented into hardware, but it’s not far off. The patent is largely in Japanese, and the controller looks remarkably like the DualShock 4, so it’s also possible this is a new PlayStation 4 controller, but it could also be a new DualShock 5 patent. We will have to wait and see.
So, that’s the Back Button Attachment and how we think it could fit into Sony’s future plans for its console. An OLED screen on the DualShock 5, as well as two extra configurable buttons (or perhaps more), would be a great boon to PlayStation gamers who want more functionality from their controller. It’s also an excellent concession to accessibility; many players with physical impairments may struggle with current button combinations, so this could be an acceptable middle ground in the great accessibility-versus-difficulty debate.
How do you think the new DualShock 5 will implement the Back Button Attachment? Do you want extra buttons on your controller or would you prioritise simplicity? Let us know!