Come On, Guys, The DualShock 3 Sucked

Come On Guys. The DualShock 3 Sucked.

The original PlayStation controller debuted in 1994. The more familiar DualShock was released in 1997. The PlayStation 3 controller you're using today, well into the 21st century, is almost identical to that 1997 design. Let's think about that for a second. It's now 2013, and if you've got a PS3, you're still using a pad whose shape was conceived alongside spring-loaded disc trays and RGB inputs.

2005. E3. When the PS3 was first unveiled over eight years ago, back when it promised to include 117 USB ports, 37 SD card reader slots and an electric cup holder, Sony also showed off a new PlayStation controller. Consisting of a radical boomerang shape, it was a massive departure from the company's iconic pad design, and most fans - and pundits - laughed their asses off. Or recoiled in horror. Or both.

Come On Guys. The DualShock 3 Sucked.

Initial reaction was so poor that Sony canned the design before the PS3 was even released, reverting not to an alternative effort, but going back in time, to a controller layout so similar to that of the PlayStation 2's DualShock 2 that it was only a lack of wires that let you tell which was which at a distance.

(This new/old pad was the Sixaxis. The less we talk about the Sixaxis , usurped in 2007 by the DualShock 3, the better.)

Congratulations, guys. You got what you wanted. And in doing so, condemned us all to seven years of sucky controllers.

The DualShock 3 - and Sixaxis before it - are by today's standards terrible pads. I find them to be uncomfortable to hold for long periods of time, not to mention occasionally physically painful (thumb tendons aren't meant to hold sticks like that, which is why the DualShock 4's are higher).

Their triggers feel cheap. The thumbstick placement is far from ideal for playing shooters, and those thumbsticks have a deadzone as big as a mass grave.

Some would argue that this regression, a return to the good ol' controller, was a good thing. That it established a legacy. That it was Sony sticking with a winner.

That argument might have helped fanboys sleep at night, but it also ignored 10 years of advances in ergonomics and controller design, from the DreamCast's wonderful analogue stick and triggers to the Xbox Controller S' all-around comfort .

Come On Guys. The DualShock 3 Sucked.

It also forgets the fact Sony themselves had got rid of the template over eight years ago, and brought it back not as a design decision, but as a reactive marketing call.

Most sane people would, if given the choice between playing a game using the DualShock 3 or Xbox 360 Controller, would go for Microsoft's pad every time. Understandably! One controller was designed with the current hardware generation in mind. The other was nearly indistinguishable from a model of the PlayStation controller first released in 1997.

But hey. It's not all bad for the PS3's controller. There are two areas the DualShock 3 came out on top against Microsoft's 360 pad. It's just a shame for Sony that neither are anywhere near as important as comfort.

The first is the d-pad. OK, so Microsoft would lose this contest to a toilet roll holder, so bad is the 360's effort, but the DualShock 3's d-pad is still a good one, as useful for flicking through the XMB as it has been for games involving stuff like 2D platforming.

The second is the battery. Microsoft went cheap, and it cost the 360 pad (and owners), users left to either lug around AA batteries or pay extra for rechargeable packs. Sony's built-in battery, on the other hand, has proven to be a wise investment.

ANECDOTE: I've been using the same primary controller for both consoles since 2008. In that time, I've been through four Xbox 360 battery packs for my 360 pad, either as a result of hardware failure or a loss of charge. The PS3's in-built battery, meanwhile, still lasts for hours, which is insane when you consider my PS3 isn't just a games console, it doubles as my media centre.

Come On Guys. The DualShock 3 Sucked.

At the end of the day, it's clear the DualShock design is past it. Even Sony knows it. Remember, and I'm going to reiterate this again, it was due for retirement in 2006, and only kept around because Sony flinched in the face of backlash.

There's no such stay of execution in the age of the PS4. The new console's controller is a marked departure, abandoning its predecessor's angular handles and coming up with an all-new design for shoulder buttons and triggers. In fact the only thing that's a trademark Sony design at all is the thumbstick placement, and even that nearly didn't make it.

If I've made it sound like I hate the DualShock design entirely, I don't! In the late 90s, and even into the PS2 era, it was a fantastic controller layout, and will forever be remembered for pioneering the idea of putting two thumbsticks on a console pad. It's also one of the few controllers you could ever call "iconic", quite an achievement considering that's a plaudit normally reserved for Nintendo products of the 1980s.

It's just...sad that an old champion was kept around past his prime. He deserved to bow out alongside the PS2 as masters of the world, not as an outdated piece of tech dragged out of retirement into one last, sorry fight.

Last-Gen Heroes is Kotaku's look back at the seventh generation of console gaming. In the weeks leading up to the launch of the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One, we'll be celebrating the Heroes — and the Zeroes — of the last eight years of console video gaming.

Come On Guys. The DualShock 3 Sucked.


    I've always been adamant that the DUAL shock was a horrible design, its uncomfortable and ugly.
    Im keen to get my hands on one of these new ps4 ones, just to see how they feel.

      to me I've always thought the analogue sticks were an afterthought, when dualshock first came out I remember laughing at how they just stuck them on there, seemed like no thought went into the design what-so-ever.

      The basic design of the PS4 controller doesnt look much different but I havent used one yet.

      Last edited 31/10/13 1:22 pm

      Funny thing is I hate the xbox controller because I always feel like I have to grip its . And when I have seen people hold the ps3 controller... well, they do it like the picture above. Wrapped around it. Gripping. I have used one for years and I don't hold it like that. I hold it loose. Relaxed.

      Often the front panel and sticks are almost facing completely away from me and towards the screen. The claw gripper people hold it with their palms against the sides of the wings and their thumbs bent, with their fingers wrapped around the triggers. I hold it with the bottom of the wings lightly resting on the middle bone of my little and ring fingers, my palms are in the breeze, and my thumbs are straight. The top bone of my pointer and index fingers comfortably rest on the triggers.

      When I am gaming at my best, I feel relaxed and completely forget my arms are stretched in front of me, resting on my lap, with a controller almost out of sight down between my knees. Also, I am barely touching the controller, and do not have a lot of skin rubbing on plastic.

      Basically you are all doing it wrong. The xbox controller is for those people who hold it in front of their torso, sticks pointing at them. A dualshock (like a bass guitar) needs to be slung low for optimum awesome.

      p.s. The one thing that I would complain about is the convex sticks. Look at the picture of the ps4 controller above. Look at the sticks. Concave. Concave, baby! Oh, yeah!

        I agree an XBOX controller is annoying and bulky. I never grip any of my PS controllers over the years, because I never needed to. And I play all sorts of different game types.

        Exactly. Held properly, the "wings" rest against the base of the last three fingers on each hand. Your last three fingers on each hand are relaxed at all times. You switch between R1/L1 and R2/L2 by moving your index finger. (This does make it hard to press both buttons on one side simultaneously, but very few games require that, and if it is required you can move up your middle finger without changing your grip very much.)

        It's a piece of precision equipment. If you are using any muscles at all while idly holding it, You Are Doing It Wrong. I worry a bit about the new PS4 controller because the touchpad does not appear to be in an easily accessible position.

        When I use an Xbox controller for an extended period, my palms get horribly hot and sweaty because the design obliges you to put your palms against the base of the "wings".

        On the other hand... concave sticks, YES! The one problem I had with the Dual Shock 3 was that the top of the sticks would lose grip when used for an extended period.

      I was a E3 in the summer and got maybe 4-5 hours playing time. The DualShock 4 is much better.

    And people bashed me last week when I said the PS3 controller was like holding a weet-bix.

      Yeah - its a kind of well known, but people will not only adapt to bad designs, but come to love them.

        I'm still rather fond of the original Atari 2600 stick controller, although the square base was an ergonomic nightmare.

        It did let you lightly grip the actual stick though. The modern use of short thumbsticks is necessary when you need two directional controls, but a single tall stick is absolutely ideal for some types of games.

        I also find the Dual Shock 3 reasonably usable. Maybe it's because I hold it lightly rather than in a death grip. If there's one thing the old Atari sticks trained you out of, it's death grips...

        GameCube controller??? Haha
        Honestly the ps4 controller looks bad at least Xbox One has a fantastic controller full of stuff gamers actually want and need... I'm looking at you Nintendo!

      I've always contemplated the correct way to refer to weet-bix in the singular.

        Weet-bick. But really, who eats just one?

        Last edited 31/10/13 12:04 pm

          I am not a fan of the "most important meal of the day" and often will just eat one weet-bick. Mashed into a gruel.

      WOW! i totally agree. There was an article on Kotaku yesterday about which console was the best of the last gen consoles. i voted for 360 simply because the PS control is the worst control ever. I cant ever get use to it.


    "and those thumbsticks have a deadzone as big as a mass grave."

    BS, both of my dualshocks have literally zero deadzone, it comes down the the software utilising the hardware. Play Resistance 3, the slightest lean on either side of the thumbstick will result in movement.

      Plug it into a PC and you can see how minute an input it needs to register. It's entirely software programmed deadzones.

    Huh, I never noticed that the boomerang controllers actually had the d-pad and face buttons tilted in towards the centre.

    Really wish I could have given it a go, they seem like they could have been decent.

      Pretty sure though that Batman's copyright claim put a stop to it though.

    Anyone who has their fingers on all 4 shoulder buttons at the same time is doing it wrong.

      Are they - I've literally never worked out the correct way to use the L2 and R2 buttons. Either way, I have to shift my grip, which is a complete fail.

        With your index finger...

        with your index finger...

        There's absolutely no need to shift your grip. Heck why are you even gripping in the first place? I never grip any of my controllers no matter what game I'm playing. Maybe that's why you guys hate it, because you feel the need to grip stuff. I play all sorts of games from shooters, to RPGs to beat 'em up to action/adventure. No matter what I'm doing, no matter what I'm fighting against, the controllers rests lightly on my hand. Never gripped.

      Except when games, you know... require it. Because some do and it feels terrible.

      Anyone who has their fingers on all 4 shoulder buttons at the same time is doing it wrong.

      Not at all. Consider flying games for instance:

      L1/R1: Strafe left/right
      L2/R2: Decelerate/Accelerate

      Even GTA V uses this layout for flying planes and helicopters.

      Last edited 31/10/13 3:00 pm

    I don't mind the dualshock design. It's what I grew up with so it's what I know. That's quite a lengthy article on you not liking a controller though

      If you ever see a gamecube pad, give it a hold. Best ever.

        Yes. I still consider the GameCube controller to be the pinnacle of ergonomic design. Subjective opinion of course.

          It was amazing, put an actual thumbstick on the right and then step away ... it's perfect

          The best part had to be the different shape of each face button. Why? Whenever a game tells you to 'Press X', especially if you go between multiple controllers, you;ll get their location mixed up. The Gamecube? It also showed the shape of the physical button, so you knew exactly which one to press.

          The number of times people died in Heavy Rain due to button mis-presses....the HORROR

            They were different shapes and they were arranged radially. So you rested on the default button and you moved in a direction for each other button. The whole thing just sat so perfectly, was so intuitive, and fit so well to the hand.

        100% man. Gamecube pad was an absolute beauty to hold and really held up to long hours. Didnt get much recognition and was pretty ug looking though.

    It does suck. Can't even use triggers and the analog sticks are way too close. Sony's hubris will never make asymmetrical thumbsticks.

      Never understood the love of asymmetrical thumbsticks. My thumbs aren't asymmetrical, so why should my controller?

        I can't really explain it besides just saying I like the placement more. Everything is in the perfect spot. DS4 does look like a huge improvement on DS3 though.

        It comes down to usage. Your left thumb's ideal neutral resting position is where the D-pad is. However, pre-dualshock, Sony designed the controller with no analogue sticks and only hastily stuck them on later to one-up the N64. That's why the sticks are in the least ergonomic position and to this day, look like an afterthought.

        So yes, the areas on the controller taken by the D-pad and face buttons are the best thumb positions. On the right side, the face buttons are used very frequently. However, on the left side, the D-pad is barely used, and so wasting space. The DS4 is sticking with the dreaded symmetrical design, but the handles are longer and the sticks are slightly more lateral, looks like a huge improvement.

        To me it comes down to how you naturaly hold the controller for games such as shooters.
        For games like FPS's you need precision movements of the right thumbstick and frequent right face button usage. So idealy you want to be supporting the weight of the controller mostly with your left hand, leaving your right digits free to almost float over the controls and not be affected by having to grip much.
        Holding the controler like this naturaly shifts the grip of the left hand further up and around the handle of the controller, putting the position of the thumb in the location of the 360 controller's left stick, or the Dual Shock's D pad.
        Remember that the Playstation D pad was designed for movement in the first place and thats why it is where it is. But now that we want to use sticks for movement...

        Also the left stick of the Dualshock obstructs the select button, which is really annoying in something like BF3 multiplayer where you need to use it a lot.

        Sure you get used to using the Dual Shock but after you have used both extensively the 360 layout is way better imo.
        As the author says: ergonomics vs no ergonomics.

        Last edited 31/10/13 3:30 pm

          This reminds of playing Soul Calibur on the Dreamcast. We always used to hold the controller "normally" with our left hand, but use our forefingers and middle fingers of our right hands for pressing the buttons so we could pull off the combos. I guess if things don't really work naturally for you, you'll always find away around it if you want to play bad enough.

    I quite like the DS3 =/ my old grip is the L2 & R2 triggers, they can be a real annoyance.

    That argument might have helped fanboys sleep at night, but it also ignored 10 years of advances in ergonomics and controller design, from the DreamCast’s wonderful analogue stick and triggers to the Xbox Controller S’ all-around comfort .
    Comfort is relative.
    Both of those controllers gave me terrible handcramps, but I can use a Dual Shock 3 all day with no problems.

      I always find the ergonomics arguments interesting, given just as you say, comfort is relative. For something to be truly ergonomic, it needs to be tailor made for the indivudual.

      The human hand is pretty much standard when it comes to bone and muscular structure, though.

      You can get used to anything. Spend enough time living in a house with doors you have to duck through and it becomes a natural feeling response.

      Unless you walk around and sleep with your thumbs at right angles to the rest of your palm, there's no way the DS3 should be more inherently bearable. You've simply grown accustomed with it.

        I've played pretty equally on N64, Gamecube, Dreamcast, PSX/2/3, Xbox/360 so no it's not that I've grown accustomed to it, it's just the controller that works best for me without pain.
        When I use it,my thumbs are not anywhere near right-angles, in fact when I hold it with my thumbs resting on the sticks and my forefingers resting on the R1/R2 triggers it forms more of a nice comfy 45 degree angle so I'm not sure where your assumptions are coming from but they are most certainly not based on anything to do with me.

      ditto, hours and hours with no issues.... maybe i have small hands or something?

    I really prefer the Playstation 3 controller to the XBOX, (I have both) and everything here is subjective,. But I find it lighter, I really like the placement of the analogue sticks, and as the article mentions durability, my controller after many years still holds it's charge and works like a dream.

      You are not alone. I think it's the way the 360 controller has the battery pack poking out of the back. The DS3 controller is thin and flat so you can support it with your fingers out flat rather than having to grip the handles at all.

      There are definite things I prefer on the DS3: No chunky battery pack on the bottom, no needless recharging of Eneloops, the lightness, etc. I have grown used to the (IMO) dreadful analogue stick placement.

      The PS3 is more 'current gen' primary console, but there are times when the analogue stick issue rears its ugly head. Most recently, was playing GTA5's yoga minigame where you move and hold the sticks in the 8 directions. You'll realise how 'off' the analogue sticks are when it asks you to hold the sticks in the 3 o'clock position and you're way off because the orientation on the controller is way off the near-horizontal direction your thumbs are coming in.

      I'm definitely getting a PS4 and the DS4 looks like a big improvement but if not, I hope there's a 3rd party Xbox/GCN-layout controller for the PS4.

        I had some time with the DS4 at EBEXPO, it was certainly better, but that doesn't take away from the DS3.

    Here's the funny thing - spent my whole life with Nintendo controllers. Once 'current' gen settled in, I got a 360 and found the controller to be my favourite and used it more for my PC than the 360. Eventually got a PS3 and tolerated the DS3 for the exclusive games.
    Fast forward a few years, busted my thumb in a game of touch football. For the next 6 months, it was physically painful to use a 360 controller with the amount of grip strength required, but I had no such issues with the DS3.
    Spent long enough in this situation that the DS3 became my controller of choice, and I can't imagine using anything else when Dark Souls 2 comes out next year. PS3 version was my immediate choice, purely for the controller.

    I guess I can see that the DS3 would be painful / uncomfortable if I tried to use the same amount of grip force that the 360 controller requires.

      You use the DS3 on PC now? If not, check out MotionInJoy.

        Can't say I've looked into it, but given that my better half has appropriated the 360 pad and wireless receiver for her shiny new PC recently, it may be worth me giving the DS3 a go.

    Never had an issue with it or the Xbox360 controller or any controller for that matter. I find it's just another thing for people to play favourites with or whinge about.

      This kind of argument usually draws out loud people who only own one of the consoles.

    Always despised the ps controller, the 4 looks comfortable for once, always get pains in my hand from playing PS for more then 20-30 minutes.

    I think the Dualshock and the original Xbox 'duke'controller are both terrible. I avoided the xbox like a plague until they released the s-controller for the xbox. That bigger thing was hideous!

    Well Sony with the "if it ain't broke, don't fix" approach..

    I quite liked the Dual Shock design

    Whilst the 360 controller is good...the PS3 controller just feels better to play with...but I guess I got conditioned playing PS1 and PS2 games and got a lot of "Playstation Crunch" during my time but I just find the PS3 controller more comfortable to play with

    This always make me laugh.

    For the life of me I cant figure out how people get their knickers in a knot so bad over controllers. I've used both xbox/playstation controllers hundreds of times and not once playing a video game have I ever thought "oh man this controller sure is x y z". I just play the game and forget about it altogether.

    That diagram, seriously, I've never held my playstation controller like a deformed lab test.

      The same way that some people care about how a car feels to drive, but some don't.
      I'll never drive a car with a mushy clutch, an accelerator with no weight or feeling of depth, or a gear stick that doesn't 'click' in and out of gates properly. Some people don't care, but for me it's the difference between a good and bad experience driving. The controller is the same.

        I have to say that I never appreciated an automatic transmission until I had to drive with a cast on my leg.
        Guess I'm getting a common theme going here about only appreciating something different after personal injury.

        Last edited 31/10/13 2:25 pm

          In order to enjoy Oculous Rift, you are going to have to get some sort of head injury. Probably better to do without.

            I like your way of thinking, but so far it's only applied to things that I considered inferior and preferred not to have to use. The Oculus Rift is awesome and I can't wait for the consumer version.
            I guess my next big bias is FPS on a controller. Maybe if I suffer some sort of injury where my wrists have to stay within an inch of each other, a controller might be the only option.

              A horrible accident where manacles on a four inch chain are permanently attached to your wrists.

              I'm sorry for your future loss.

    if you’ve got a PS3, you’re still using a pad whose shape was conceived alongside spring-loaded disc trays and RGB inputs

    Yeah, my car has 4 wheels, just like the first one invented did.

    And in doing so, condemned us all to seven years of sucky controllers.

    Wow. First world issues.

    All of the PS controllers have been excellent. The Dualshock 3 is great mainly because it's familiar (that was a selling point to me) and because it's wireless. The wireless functionality make this gens controller far superior to previous gens.

    I find them to be uncomfortable to hold for long periods of time, not to mention occasionally physically painful

    Yeah I get that too. Certainly more noticeably than I did with PS1 and PS2. But still, pain sets in after hours of usage and that's probably a good sign to put the controller down for a bit.

    Their triggers feel cheap. The thumbstick placement is far from ideal for playing shooters, and those thumbsticks have a deadzone as big as a mass grave.

    I've never had a problem with the triggers - and they definitely don't feel cheap. There's nothing wrong with them.

    I have no idea what a deadzone is. Sounds like a 90s' movie.

    We don't have to be super awesome at games and shave off 0.05 seconds off of a reaction time. Some of us just want to play. Ideally on an even playing field.

    The second is the battery. Microsoft went cheap, and it cost the 360 pad (and owners), users left to either lug around AA batteries or pay extra for rechargeable packs.

    Yeah that's a big factor. People like quality and convenience.

    I completely disagree witht his article. I think the Dualshock design is the single best on the market today. It's light, durable and comfortable. There's a REASON the basic design hasn't been updated in nearly 20 years.

      There's a REASON the basic design hasn't been updated in nearly 20 years.

      Stagnation? The first redesign only happened when Sony was blindsided by the N64 and so jerry-rigged two sticks beneath the handles, to join the "we TWO analogue sticks!" pissing-contest. They backed away from the boomerang controller because they were kow-towing to fans. Doesn't mean they got it right the first (or second) time around.

        Stagnation? They may not have changed the outside but the inside, the part that interacts with the game, got a big upgrade (Debatabley even over the 360. I'm not saying it was better, but there were more possible ways to interact with the games because of 6 axis, even if it's considered a gimmick) As for the outside, I'm with some of the other guys, comfort is relative. After using a PS pad for years, the 360 pad gives me cramps.

        In any case, I try not to base my console decision on the Pad. It's only a pad after all and most of the time there are good aftermarket alternatives.

          In any case, I try not to base my console decision on the Pad.

          I'm not either. I own a PS2 and PS3, I have a pre-order down for the PS4 and generally prefer it to Xbox at this point but I generally loathe the dualshock family. If I can find a 3rd party Xbox-layout controller for the PS4, I'll be a very happy camper.

            Yeah, all I say is it's down to preference. I know many who hate the PS pad and others that hate the xbox pad.

    Never much liked he Dualshock 3. Still, you get used to it. Really looking forward to the sexy sticks of the Dualshock 4, however.

      the DS4 feels amazing. you have a lot to look forward to.

        Thanks for the reassurance. :-)

        It's a shame I won't get to try the DS4 with Watch Dogs @ release. Boo.

    The DS3 really wasn't up to snuff when pitted against the Xbox 360 controller, the ergonomics of that thing were just impossible to match with old DS design. That being said I'd take a DS3 any day of the week for Fighting games and Platforming, Sony's d-pad continues to be the best in class as far as I'm concerned, something the 360 controller sorely lacked.

    Pretty pumped to get my hands on the DS4, that thing looks a lot more refined in the ergo department. Also the widening of the space between the sticks should make things a lot easier, less of a stretch inwards and no colliding thumbs which is what made stick usage on the PS3 a less desirable experience (contrary to popular belief it was range and throw that made the PS3 uncomfortable, not the asymmetrical positioning). Also good to see some tension on those things now.

    The xbox controller may be more comfortable, but if the PS3 controller was 10% -20% fatter on the sides it would be perfect. I dont know how many times ive hit down on the dpad on the xbox controller an its decided to hit left as well.

    It'll be a while before I spring for a PS4 but I'm hoping that the redesigned controller will mean I won't need to drop a hundred odd bucks on a top quality 3rd party controller just to be able to use it like I did with the PS3.

    Say no to early onset arthritis kids, its not as glamorous as it sounds.

    The general consensus may have been that DS3 sucked but I didn't care. I was brought up on Nintendo 64 and playstation, then ps2 & GameCube controllers. So I've been used to these shapes my whole life. When I bought my first 360 in 2010 I enjoyed the controller, but didn't feel disadvantaged when playing a shooter (or whatever) back on the PS3. To me it was just different horses for different courses and games like resistance, killzone and uncharted felt just at home on the ds3 as cod did on the 360. You guys may view the design as dated and carrying 20-year-old flaws... To me it's a classic design that held up remarkably well

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