The Evolution Of The PlayStation Controller

Now that PlayStation Move is finally in the hands of gamers across Europe and the UK only has a few more hours to wait, it seems as good a time as any to lace up our nostalgia shoes and take a look at the various control methods used on PlayStation systems over the years.

1995 – PlayStation Control Pad: Shaping the Future

PSone controller

PlayStation hit shelves and, along with the D-pad, came four shapes – triangle, circle, X and square – that, together, would visually represent a new global culture.

1997 – Dual Analog: More Power to Your Thumbs


Two years later, a pair of thumb sticks was added to the original controller and we’ve never looked back. The general design of the Dual Analog controller went on to become a games industry standard that is still in place to this day.

1998 – DualShock: A Shock to the System
The first PlayStation controller with vibration feedback and the last to be released for PlayStation, the DualShock let you physically feel the force of a Tekken 3 beatdown. Some developers realised that having two motors allowed for stereo vibration feedback; the helicopter scenes in the original Metal Gear Solid were particularly impressive in this respect.

2000 – DualShock 2: Analogue Accuracy

DualShock 2

It looked the same as its predecessor but the first PlayStation 2 controller was built for accuracy. Its stiff analogue sticks tracked degrees of movement and pressure, allowing games like Gran Turismo 4 to become masterpieces of realistic physics, and the textured analog sticks were built with greater grip in mind. Also, the face buttons were pressure sensitive so that your PS2 could detect how firmly you pressed them.

2003 – EyeToy: We Can See You

EyeToy camera

You are the controller. This hyper-intelligent little piece of kit captured the motion of your body and fed it back to PlayStation 2, bringing gaming out of your hands and letting it loose in the living room.

2004 – SingStar Mics: The Sonic Boom

SingStar WirelessMic 140808

With the arrival of SingStar, gamers learned to use their lungs as well as their thumbs. The game’s microphones, which went wireless in 2009, turned millions of fans into pop stars. Now, no party is complete without a bit of SingStar.

2005 – Buzz! Buzzers: Life is a Gameshow

Wireless Buzzers with dongle

Fun to hold; more fun to bash – it’s the controller that no one can resist picking up. Just answer the question by hitting the right button faster than anyone else – a concept so fun and simple that anyone from five to 85 can join in.

2006 – Sixaxis Controller: Look… No Wires

PS3 Conrtoller front

Roll it, tilt it or lift it – whatever you did, the new PlayStation 3’s controller tracked it in six axes of movement, letting you change the direction of a Warhawk, a MotorStorm Big Rig or a rampaging Chimera with the flick of a wrist – and without a connecting cable.

2007 – PlayStation Eye: Look, Listen and Chat


A bit like EyeToy – but with superpowers – this camera gave us four times the resolution, twice the frame rate, close-ups and four-way directional mics. The result: it doesn’t miss a blink – perfect for the new world of augmented reality (and cheeky EyePets).

2007 – DualShock 3: Return of the Rumble

DualShock 3

All the power of Sixaxis – now with added vibration feedback. The ultimate evolution of the PlayStation controller delivers analogue and digital signals simultaneously. In 2007, it won the snappily titled Emmy Award for Peripheral Development and Technological Impact of Video Game Controllers.

2010 – PlayStation Move: Let Yourself Go

PlayStation Move: Let Yourself Go

It’s been a long journey, and we’ve learned a few things along the way. The satisfaction of accurate control. The thrill of augmented reality. The fun of a microphone – or gun, or racquet – in the hand. The sheer joy of movement. When you engineer sixteen years of PlayStation into one object, what do you get? Something you’ll never, ever want to put down. It’s time to Move.

12 Author replies

so basically if you take away the mics, camera, buzz controllers, It is the same thing as it started… and that’s what we like about it.

James Gallagher 16 September, 2010 @ 09:28

Exactly – after all these years of playing, they’re essentially the same shape as my hands.

Not picture: the infamous boomerang version.

James Gallagher 16 September, 2010 @ 09:36

Yes, I kept it to released controllers.

Really interesting read, James! It begs the question, where will Sony go next? Will we see a DualShock 4 with the PS4, or something totally new like was originally thought with the PS3?


James Gallagher 16 September, 2010 @ 09:37

Whoa… don’t get too far ahead of yourself, especially when we’re releasing a brand new, innovative controller this very day!

I want the boomerang controller, mostly so I can throw it at other people though


I remember the first thumb stick controller where there was no convex rubber face. Instead it was concave grey plastic. Hard to get a grip with it especially with sweaty hands.

Good times.

Heh, loved the little ‘you are the controller’ stub for the 2003 EyeToy ;)

cool little overview, thanks :)

I never felt that the PS Eye has been a big step up from the eyetoy. Has anyone ever found a use for the 4 directional mics?

James Gallagher 16 September, 2010 @ 09:39

EyePey had some nice audio features and I think you’ll see many more as developers look to innovate with PlayStation Move. Off the top of my head, Start the Party makes use of the internal mic.

I got my PlayStation Move today! Its freaking amazing. Its a must buy for all you guys with a PS3 :D

I like the DualShock, but at 2m tall with large hands to match, the controller is a little small for me and makes impossible to hold it how it’s meant to be held.

I know the controller had to be designed to suit adults and children across different continents, but that compromise makes it difficult for adults – especially in EU and NA.
It would be great if Sony could bring out a larger version for European, adult sized hands.

“makes IT impossible”

When do we get the edit feature James? ;-)


I the PS Eye the exact same model as I already own, or have their been improvements made over the original PS eye?

James Gallagher 16 September, 2010 @ 10:00

I have no idea if any minor internal changes have been made as technology improves but, in terms of functionality and performance, it has stayed the same.

“The Evolution Of The PlayStation Controller” What evolution?

And (pad) controllers are the only point where PS3 loses to XBOX. I hope when they make next pad controller they would think of ERGONOMICS. And would not use the same mold from 1995.

It’s good that I can play GT5 with wheel and don’t have to use pad controller.

And to think that I went through all the controllers. getting Move today :D.


@ james gallagher – I know that the mic can be used for chat and audio features, but what I’m specifically reffering to was the early claim that with a bit of clever programming, the PSEye can measure latency between 4 mics (that result by their slightly different positions), and determine which person is talking, as everyone is sat in different places. A even read a claim somewhere that this same tech could provide noise cancellation, and remove the feedback from your games audio that voice chat may pick up.

Did this never pan out as intended? Or is it a case of 4 mics simply pick up better sound than 1?

James Gallagher 16 September, 2010 @ 09:57

With you. I’ve never heard of any games supporting these kinds of features and, I have to admit, I never heard those claims. If it is possible though, it would need a developer to decide that these kinds of features are important enough to their game to put some time and resource into it for it to come to fruition. Here’s hoping that Move is going to encourage devs to take a fresh look at the PS Eye and unlock some new possibilities.

@ juhavainio the playstation controller feels way better then xbox360 one, handles better, lays better, in my hand.

you dont change a good concept….. so i hope playstation controller stays a little the same in the future

All very nice james how about a look back at the back-log of hardware in sony family. WE all Happy families are we Not.

*Big group Hug*

*off Topic we know the 3.50 is comming next week is the PSP getting 1 as well, it needs to stop this speculation of this rumour about 1 of the PSP game trailer showing PSP showing trophies on it‘s screen.

Quick question to U James. Can I use my PlayStation Eye that I have from Eye of Judgement with the Move controller or do I have to get the one with the bundle?

James Gallagher 16 September, 2010 @ 09:59

The PS Eye hasn’t changed so the one you have will work absolutely fine. Just bear in mind that the PS2 EyeToy will not work with Move.

The first controller featuring rumble was the Dual Analog. But rumble was removed in Europe and US.

Tell the Firmware Team that there is a Bug with the Mic. You can only set Volume to 3! With this the Microphones in PS Eye are useless!!! You have to be so close (10centimeter!) to the Eye or nobody hears you! On Gamescom i tell this the Developer of TV Superstars, he dosent know this! James please check this out, on the Settings Tap in the XMB!!!

For Headset Volume 3 is ok, but not for PS Eye. If nothing is connectet you can change it to 1,2 or 4,5 but this has no effect. This bug is since Firmware 2.xx!

I love the DualShocks symmetrical design. Don’t ever change that.


I’m with adolson. I hate non symmetrical designs, the thumb sticks are MUCH better side by side (:

True, true. I tried to play XBox few times but the controller just plain sux :(. I get my ass kicked in all the fighting games by ppl that I usually defeat at the same game on PS3 with normal controller :D.

ooo that grey PS1 controller brings back fond gaming memories. Long live the PS1 :D

James Gallagher 16 September, 2010 @ 11:03

Still got mine, and it works… played Shaq Fu on it just last week. I also have the super-rare green PSone debug console.


Good times. Nice read.

Why doesnt the Navigation controller come with a strap like the MOVE controller does? Very strange?

James Gallagher 16 September, 2010 @ 10:59

Because you won’t be moving it around so it’s unlikely to slip out of your hand.

I love the way SCE has kept the same design throughout all of these years with the DualShock controllers. Not only is the controller extremely iconic but it ensures you wont feel out of place when you play any past or future PlayStation consoles. That’s the best part. I remember returning to my PS2 to play Yakuza and it was a godsend to not have to get use to a new controller.

By going through 3 PS Consoles and the portables, I hope the controls dont change, it wouldn’t be PlayStation without that controller design.

The only thing that lets the PS3 controllers down are the L2 and R2 triggers. The springs in them dont seem to last as long as I expected. If they are modified for the next generation of controller, it would make it almost perfect. :)

I like the ‘DualShock 3’ pad but i don’t like the L2 & R2 triggers to. If i can in a game i avoid using them :-/

hey hey

♥♥♥ the sixaxis ♥♥♥

i cant stand rumble and never have :/ dunno why but it never feels intuitive and just anoys me.

the sixaxis is one of the most underused features of the controller and possibly (imho) one of its greatest strengths. the little nice touches it can add to a game are just incredible.

the buzz controlers were awfull beyond awfull. wires everywhere and broke more often than not ! ! !

what we need now is a decent camera. the eye is good but pic quality is severely lacking. and @anton I WOULD 100% pay a premium for a good camera. FYI did anyone catch the gadget show this week with the footie tech using a playstation eye ?

grats to sony. keep up the good work.

I love the DualShock3 (except the L2/R2 trigger >.<) but it's the same controller for more than 10 years now.
Maybe with PS"4" we will see -finally- something new.



But you forgot the best one, the Dual Analog Pad:

Wii don’t Kinect, and should Move on.

Dual Shock (2/3) is PERFECT :) You should never change it guys.

M3RL1NS_N3M3S1S 16 September, 2010 @ 12:24

Love the article and the look back on controllers, but i’m pretty sure it wasn’t the DS3 that won that award but the overall concept and design of the controller that has remained the same through all versions… all the headlines at the time were “PS3 controller wins award… kinda” and the articles explained it was the PlayStation Control pad in general and no particualr version of it that was given the award ;) nice strole down memory lane.

I have all of the above and many 3rd party controllers too like the Seitek PSX3000 which was a PS1 controller with the right analogue stick replaced with an early version of SIXAXIS. anyone remember the dedicated ResEvil controllers? with the right grip shaped like a gun handel? or the NeoCon twisty controller released with Wip3out?

The NeoCon and GunCon were both official controllers and prob should be on this list, the GunCon def should as it’s now being replaced by move

James Gallagher 16 September, 2010 @ 12:41

I definitely considered the NeoCon as it was a truly innovative design and perhaps only held back by the fact that it was only really suitable for one genre of game.

Maybe there’s another feature in there – some of the quirkier controllers released. I seem to remember there was a twin-stick flight simulator board released for the PSone in its early days:

H=James, thanks for the answer, there is 1 more thing, I cant I get the MOVE to calibrate? Any tips on the blog please?

Amazing I can still remember the stereo vibration from the Metal Gear Solid Helicopter scenes. It still sends shivers down my spine! Well done Sony and Konami and Dualshock!


I wonder if Eyetoy Kinect will be a launch title for the Xbox 360 Kinect :).



Interesting read – and I’ve owned every one of them (aside from the SingStar mics)!

The PlayStation was my first real experience with a console as before then I had a PC and before that an Amiga, so from a gaming point of view I’ve grown up with Sony’s designs – for me the DualShock controller is the de-facto design.

It just goes to show though it is possible to launch a new control method mid-way through a generation – some people say Move should have launched with the PS3 to be successful, but those same people couldn’t imagine a world without two analogue thumb sticks and just like move they were added 3 years after the console launched…

Oh and I liked the thinly veiled reminder to MS that you had the “You are the controller” tagline back in 2003!

I think you should atleast have a concept picture of each controller, above or at the side of it. That would be sweeter! :D

M3RL1NS_N3M3S1S 16 September, 2010 @ 13:16

yeah a look back on all the 3rd party gems released would be nice as part of the 15 years of playstation celebrations we’re sure to be having soon here on the blog.

Another thing that would be cool is a similar article covering every model of PlayStation console released their impact on gaming and a bit on what future versions of each brought to (or took away from) the party…

PlayStation 1
Net Yarozee
Pocket Station
PSone + Screen

PlayStation 2
PlayStation 2 Slim

PlayStation Portable 1000-3000 versions

PLAYSTATION 3 (and sonys obsession with spider-man at the time)
PS3 Slim

I mention Spiderman because i feel it’s safe to say if sony weren’t obsessed with the franchise the PS3 would have launched with the traditional PlayStation logo in the “PlayStation” font not the “spiderman” font…

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yeah a look back on all the 3rd party gems released would be nice as part of the 15 years of playstation celebrations we’re sure to be having soon here on the blog.

Another thing that would be cool is a similar article covering every model of PlayStation console released their impact on gaming and a bit on what future versions of each brought to (or took away from) the party…

PlayStation 1
Net Yarozee
Pocket Station
PSone + Screen

PlayStation 2
PlayStation 2 Slim

PlayStation Portable 1000-3000 versions

PLAYSTATION 3 (and sonys obsession with spider-man at the time)
PS3 Slim

I mention Spiderman because i feel it’s safe to say if sony weren’t obsessed with the franchise the PS3 would have launched with the traditional PlayStation logo in the “PlayStation” font not the “spiderman” font…

Dear James,
I’ve been waiting for something to do with the PSEye ever since I brought it when launched many moons ago. I’ve pre-ordered the move, I’ve down loaded all and anything to do with move last night. But disappointedly today I’ve watched the postman walk past my house today.
So still I wait

PS. Please can we have the tech demo’s?



ohh James you reminded me of the good old days ><"

One thing i have always wondered with the sixaxis and dualshock 3, are all the buttons pressure sensitive like they are on the dualshock 2? I’ve never come across the answer anywhere and it has always bugged be. Metal Gear Solid 2 and GT3 A-Spec used this feature really well for squeezing the trigger of a gun or holding the throttle around corners.
More games need to use these subtle touches because….well they are just awesome :p

James Gallagher 16 September, 2010 @ 15:48

I think devs do use it, maybe it’s just not in the most obvious ways and the fact that we’ve all grown used to it and taken it for granted. For example, I know that the PES team takes advantage of analogue action buttons to determine strength of passes and shots.

M3RL1NS_N3M3S1S 16 September, 2010 @ 13:55

they are all pressure sensitve just like PS2 ;) and as far as i know the sensitivity was increased…

Ooo! Now show the mindlessly stupid backward step that Sony took by only putting one analogue nub on the PSP!


Do you know of any games that support them? or are you just assuming they are the same? no one from sony ever mentions it.

And industry has gone

Microsoft = eyetoy
Wii = its own thing
Sony = eyetoy+wii mote

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