Can’t we all just share our toys?
Over the years, it’s been interesting to see how technology has allowed us to branch out from the traditional way of gaming. Everyone knows that when it comes to consoles, each system has its own unique propriety trademarks. The PlayStation controller, for example, is often considered one of the best gaming controllers ever. Ergonomically speaking, the shape and contour of the plastic fits perfect in just about anyone’s hands comfortably. Also, the layout of the buttons no doubt influenced Microsoft, who would later become its competitor when it designed its Xbox controller (we’ll overlook the monstrosity the original Xbox shipped with). The point is, these days, developers have things locked down pretty tight. You’re not going to see things like an Xbox 360 controller running a PS3 console (without a mod or foreign adapter). It’s even become more difficult for third-party developers like MadCatz and Pelican to get in on the fun, as they’ve always been known for making great accessories, often times cutting into the original manufacturer’s profits due to offering the product at a discounted rate.
Recently, Sony announced that the new DualShock 4 controller (set to be released with its PlayStation 4 console this November) will be compatible with Windows-based desktops. This is good news for gamers who are a fan of the PlayStation, as the PS3 controller has always been considered a real nightmare to get working on a computer (in a setup that was consider non-user friendly at best). Microsoft’s Xbox 360 controller has always provided a very simple plug-and-play setup. Most Windows-based systems already have the drivers, so getting your controller to work on your PC was no more complicated than connecting a USB drive. So, with the introduction of the DualShock 4 to PC, it’s interesting to see just how far Sony is willing to blur the lines when it comes to traditional conventions of gaming technology. After all, with the upcoming Xbox One vs. PS4 war set to begin (and Microsoft manufacturing both Xbox and Windows), it’s almost like Sony is attempting to plant a flag in its competitor’s front yard. Many PC-based games run on Microsoft’s “Games for Windows” platform and will now be played via a Sony product. That…is kind of a mind job.
Of course, this isn’t exactly new ground Sony is breaking. Throughout the ages, there have been other companies who have blurred this line between themselves and their competitors. Breaking down the technological walls, for many companies, is a way to dip into their opponent’s market share. If you take away the concept of exclusivity, it becomes harder for your competitor to sell its product as a better option to yours. Two of the biggest entries into the earliest days of the console wars were the Atari and the Intellivision. Even before the days of the 8- and 16-bit wars began, these two were the granddaddies of feuding consoles. Intellivision, in an attempt to overtake the powerhouse Atari, boldly released an add-on for its Intellivision 2 that actually played Atari 2600 games. OK, so let’s think about that for a second. To put that into perspective, imagine if at launch, the Xbox One said it was backwards compatible with PS3 games.
It makes you wonder just how far a concept like this will go in the future. Many gamers are aware of the old trick of plugging a Sega Genesis controller into an Atari 2600 to play the games. The DualShock 4 crossover reminds me of this in a lot of ways. The technology of those days was in such an infantile stage, you naturally had overlapping hardware that was universal (subsequently allowing for that kind of thing). Thus, that’s how we got the Genesis/Atari melding. As consoles became more advanced, they started moving away from standard tech and developing proprietary technology that began once again putting up walls between them and their counterparts.
Now, with much of today‘s hardware being based around things like drivers, it’s much easier for these walls to begin to come down once again. As I mentioned earlier, many third-party companies overseas already provide things like adapters or hardware mods that will let you connect controllers to other systems they were never intended for. Is this a trend that the major console developers will one day pick up on? If so, the DualShock compatibility with PC could be seen as Sony dipping its toe into that pool. Hopefully, we see more of this kind of crossover technology in the future from the “big two” and not just third parties, who are forced to do backdoor deals with distributors so they avoid legal repercussions.
So thanks Sony, this concept has now wet my appetite. The thought of stringing together all our gaming devices in some weird “console Frankenstein” is too sweet to pass up.