E3 2019 is approaching and while games are on the mind, the whispers of the next console generation grow louder. Sony has bowed out of E3, but has already sowed the next generation’s seed with a PlayStation 5 announcement. Microsoft will have a chance to steal E3 with their latest project: Xbox Scarlett. With new systems comes a familiar question: what becomes of the old? As the next generation of consoles grows near, the idea of backwards compatibility should go beyond games from the previous generation but extend towards controllers as well.
Who doesn’t have a favorite controller? Maybe it’s a GameCube controller held together with duct tape and positive thoughts, with a worn down C-stick from countless Smash tournaments. Maybe it’s an Xbox 360 controller carried to dozens of LAN parties or a Wii mote used to bowl a perfect game. Eventually, that favorite controller is deemed unusable for the next generation and is set aside. That can mean leaving a lot of money on the table.
According to the NPD Group, controller sales have reached an all-time high. Sales for gamepads from Microsoft and Sony have increased by 15% compared to last year. With less games offering a couch co-op experience, this increase in sales could be due to quality controllers with bigger price tags from this generation. In October of 2015, Microsoft released the Xbox One Elite controller alongside Halo 5: Guardians. This $150 controller came with programmable paddles, sets of differing d-pads and thumbsticks, and an app that allowed for precise adjustments to every aspect of the controller. Microsoft’s Elite and third party companies like SCUF Gaming have extended a higher-end option for those looking for the best performance from their controllers, for the right price.
That doesn’t mean that only customizable controllers can rake in the big bucks. Take the Sea of Thieves custom Xbox One controller, for example. This limited edition controller only offered aesthetic differences and is currently going for over $200 on retail websites. Technology advancing between generations doesn’t mean that the controllers have to become obsolete. The Xbox 360 controller continues to be used by the military to control high-powered periscopes on nuclear submarines. If it’s good enough to replace $38,000 joysticks for those controls, it should be good enough to play Cuphead.
With PlayStation 4 and PlayStation VR, Sony was able to bring its own brand of virtual reality to consoles for the first time. However, Sony reused PlayStation Move motion controllers rather than create brand new controllers to go along with the PSVR headset. So far, Sony has sold over three million PSVR units and since Sony has confirmed that PSVR will be compatible with PlayStation 5, that figure should continue to grow. Does this mean there’s hope that other Playstation 4 hardware could be compatible with the next generation?
Backward compatibility is an important issue when thinking of what the next generation can bring to the table. Those who buy consoles, games and accessories don’t want to feel that those investments have been wasted. Maybe this generation will be one that can truly appreciates the accomplishments in the past by giving gamers a reason to put their favorite controller back in their hands.