Image by/from Sony Computer Entertainment
The DualShock (originally Dual Shock, trademarked as DUALSHOCK or DUAL SHOCK, PlayStation 5 version named DualSense) is a line of gamepads developed by Sony Interactive Entertainment for the PlayStation family of video game consoles. It is named for vibration-feedback and analog controls. It was introduced in November 1997 as a secondary peripheral for the first PlayStation console. The console’s bundle was updated to include DualShock, and phase out the original PlayStation controller and the Dual Analog Controller. The DualShock is the best-selling gamepad of all time by units sold, excluding bundled controllers.
The DualShock Analog Controller (models: SCPH-1200; US models: SCPH-110U) can provide vibration feedback based on game activity, and input through two analog sticks. Its name derives from its dual vibration motors. These motors are housed within the handles, with the left one being larger and more powerful than the one on the right, so to allow for varying levels of vibration. Nintendo 64’s Rumble Pak has only one motor and has battery power, but all corded varieties of the DualShock are powered by the PlayStation. The rumble feature of the DualShock is similar to the Japanese version of the Dual Analog Controller, a feature that was removed shortly after that controller was released.
The DualShock, like its predecessor the Dual Analog controller, has two analog sticks. Unlike the earlier controller, the DualShock’s analog sticks feature textured rubber grips rather than the smooth plastic tips with recessed grooves found on the Dual Analog controller. Other visible differences between Dual Analog and the DualShock include the longer grips and handles and slightly larger L2/R2 buttons. The Dual Analog controller also has an additional mode accessible by pressing the “Analog” button that provides compatibility with the PlayStation Analog Joystick which results in the analog indicator light turning green instead of red being able to play on other devices; unfortunately this feature was removed from the DualShock.
The DualShock, and its following designs also includes a direction pad, Start and Select button, and four face buttons with labelling, which was first introduced on the original PlayStation controller using simple geometric shapes which include a green triangle, a red circle, a blue cross, and a pink square (, , , ). The controller’s designer Teiyu Goto had intended the circle and cross to represent “yes” and “no” respectively as common in Japanese culture, and thus typically used for “confirm” and “cancel” in most PlayStation games respectively, and placed similarly to the A and B buttons on the Super Famicom controller which had similar functions, while the triangle symbolizes a point of view and the square is equated to a sheet of paper there to be used to access menus. In Western releases, the circle and cross functions are often switched (circle to cancel, cross to confirm) or reassigned to a different button (cross to confirm, triangle to cancel).
The DualShock controller is widely supported; shortly after its launch most new games, including Waku Waku Puyo Puyo Dungeon, Crash Bandicoot: Warped, Spyro the Dragon, and Tekken 3 include support for the vibration feature and dual analog sticks, and Capcom re-released Resident Evil: Director’s Cut and Resident Evil 2 with support for the controller added to these newer versions. Some games designed for the Dual Analog’s vibration capability, such as Porsche Challenge and Crash Bandicoot 2, also work. Many games take advantage of the presence of two motors to provide vibration effects in stereo including Gran Turismo and the PlayStation port of Quake II. Released in 1999, the PlayStation hit Ape Escape is the first game to explicitly require DualShock/Dual-Analog-type controllers, with its gameplay requiring the use of both analog sticks.
In 2000, the PS one (a redesigned version of the original PlayStation) was released with a slightly redesigned DualShock Controller (SCPH-110(U)). This controller was similar to the first one, except with a “PSone” word mark replacing “PlayStation” underneath the logo, a purple hue on the buttons and sticks to match the color scheme of the PSone, a semicircle-shaped connector, and multiple color options for the body.
The DualShock is compatible with the PlayStation 2, as they use the same connector and protocol. However, certain PS2 games that utilize the DualShock 2’s analog buttons, such as The Bouncer and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, are not compatible with the DualShock. The DualShock is part of the PlayStation 2’s backward compatibility.
The DualShock 2 Analog Controller (SCPH-10010; US models: SCPH-10010U/97026) included with PlayStation 2’s launch is almost identical externally as the previous DualShock analog controller, with a few minor cosmetic changes. It has different screw positioning and one fewer screw. A blue DualShock 2 logo was added to the top of the controller, the connector is more square than the DualShock, and both the cable and connector are black rather than grey. The standard controller is black (other colors came later), rather than grey as with the original DualShock. The analog sticks are stiffer than on the original DualShock.
Internally, the DualShock 2 is lighter and all of the buttons (except for the Analog mode, start, select, L3 and R3 buttons) are readable as analog values (pressure-sensitive). The DualShock 2 can sense 256 levels of pressure.
The DualShock 2 has been made available in various colors: black, satin silver, ceramic white, slate grey, clear, ocean blue, emerald green, crimson red, lemon yellow, and candy pink.
Some coin operated arcade cabinets have connections for DualShock or DualShock 2 controllers, including Namco’s Tekken 5 and Konami’s Winning Eleven Arcade Championship 2012.
The original PlayStation is forward compatible with the DualShock 2. The PlayStation 3 is backward compatible with the DualShock and DualShock 2 by the use of third party peripherals, which connect the controller to the console via a USB port. However, the DualShock and DualShock 2 will not work properly with games that require Sixaxis functionality, such as Heavy Rain.
The DualShock 3 wireless controller (SCPH-98050/CECHZC2) is a gamepad for the PlayStation 3, and was announced at the 2007 Tokyo Game Show. It succeeds the Sixaxis wireless controller originally released with earlier versions of the console. The DualShock 3 is nearly identical to the previous Sixaxis version but adds the haptic feedback capabilities found in the DualShock and DualShock 2. Sony settled a patent infringement lawsuit with Immersion in March 2007 following a lengthy legal battle. The settlement cleared the way for incorporating the vibration feature that the Sixaxis lacks. Both the vibration function and motion-sensing capabilities of the DualShock 3 can be used simultaneously without one interfering with the other. Like the Sixaxis, it has a USB mini-B port for charging and can also be used on a PSP Go via Bluetooth, though the controller and the PSP Go must be registered using a PS3 console.
The DualShock 3 can be identified by its “DualShock 3” and “Sixaxis” markings. It also weighs 192 grams (6.8 oz), 40% more than its predecessor, the Sixaxis, which weighed only 137.1 grams (4.84 oz).
The rear markings indicate the original DualShock 3 draws up to 300 mA of current at 3.7 V for a power consumption of 1.11 W, an order of magnitude increase from the 30 mA of current at 3.7 V (0.111 W) listed on the Sixaxis. However, this current is not drawn constantly and is the maximum current when the rumble is active. Its main power source is an internal 3.7 V Li-ion battery tentatively capable of storing 570 mAh, which provides up to 30 hours of continuous gaming on a full charge. Third party replacement batteries are also available. Like the Sixaxis, the DualShock 3 comes with instructions on how to remove and replace the battery. The DualShock 3 can also draw power over a USB cable via a USB mini-B connector on the top of the controller. This allows the controller to be used when the battery is low and is also used for charging the battery. When connected via USB, the controller communicates with the console through the USB cable, rather than Bluetooth.
Along with the release of the ‘slim’ model PS3, Sony released a new version of the DualShock 3 (A1) which uses 5.0 V at 500 mA while connected, but still contains a 3.7 V battery. This revision of the DualShock 3 does away with the additional plastic brackets between the L1/R1 buttons and the L2/R2 triggers (increasing controller rigidity), has indicator lights soldered directly to the board, and comes in slightly revised color schemes.
While the DualShock 3 is compatible with any standard USB mini-B cable and many USB chargers, official charging cables are available from Sony. These include an official cable, the USB 2.0 Cable Pack and a wall charger, the AC adapter charging kit. Any third-party USB charger used must act as a USB host device, rather than simply providing power over the appropriate pins, since both the Sixaxis and DualShock 3 require a host signal to “wake up” and begin charging.
A Sony representative confirmed on April 2, 2008, that the original Sixaxis controller would officially be discontinued with the release of the haptic-feedback enabled DualShock 3 in mid-April 2008. The Sixaxis was no longer produced after 2008, being dropped from stock by most retailers.
The DualShock 3 has been produced in various colors: black, satin silver, ceramic white, classic white, metallic blue, deep red, pink, “jungle green” (olive), “candy blue” (light blue), “urban camouflage” (three-color digital camouflage), “crimson red” (transparent red), and “cosmic blue” (transparent blue). Not all colors have been made available in all markets or at all times.
Additional colors have been released alongside limited edition consoles, including gun-metal grey and “cloud black” (dark grey).
A limited edition baseball themed DualShock 3 controller was released on March 8, 2011 to coincide with the release of MLB 11: The Show. Another color, “Metallic Gold”, became available in June 2012 as a limited edition in Europe, and in North America it is sold exclusively in GameStop from October 2012. A limited edition God of War: Ascension controller is available in the UK as part of a console bundle to coincide with the launch of the game and in the Americas as a game and controller bundle. On November 1, 2013, Sony announced a new transparent Crystal model of the DualShock 3 controller in Japan.
The DualShock 4 (CUH-ZCT1 or CUH-ZCT2) is the PlayStation 4’s controller. It has several new features from DualShock 3. One new feature is a built-in two-point capacitive touch pad on the front of the controller, which can be clicked. This allows the touch pad to represent multiple buttons, as demonstrated in the PS4 version of Elite Dangerous in which the four corners of the touch pad can be mapped to a separate clickable actions. The controller supports motion detection via a three-axis gyroscope and three-axis accelerometer and vibration. It includes a non-removable, rechargeable 3.7 V, 1000 mAh lithium-ion battery, which can be charged while the system is in rest mode. It weighs 210 g (7.4 oz) and has dimensions of 162 mm × 52 mm × 98 mm (6.4 in × 2.0 in × 3.9 in).
The front of the controller features a light bar containing three LEDs that, when lit in conjunction, cause the light bar to glow a variety of colors. Developed for PlayStation VR, it can be used to identify players by matching the colors of the characters they control in a game, or to provide enhanced feedback or immersion by changing patterns or colors in reaction to gameplay. An early example of this is displayed in the game Grand Theft Auto V; the light bar will flash red and blue when the player is wanted by the police, simulating the flashing lights of a police car. The light bar is also used in conjunction with the PlayStation Camera to judge the positions and movements of multiple players.
The controller features several input and output connectors: a stereo headset jack (3.5 mm CTIA TRRS connector), a micro-USB port, and an extension port. It can be charged using the console, using a dedicated charging station, or via microUSB using a standalone charger. It also includes a mono speaker, like the Wii Remote, and is the second major controller in video game history to have such feature.
The DualShock 4 features the following buttons: PS button, SHARE button, OPTIONS button, directional buttons, action buttons (triangle, circle, cross, square), shoulder buttons (R1/L1), triggers (R2/L2), analog stick click buttons (L3/R3), and a touch pad click button. These mark several changes from the DualShock 3 and other previous PlayStation controllers. The START and SELECT buttons have been merged into a single OPTIONS button. A dedicated SHARE button allows players to upload screenshots and videos from their gameplay experiences. The joysticks and triggers have been redesigned based on developer input, with the ridged surface of the joysticks now featuring an outer ring surrounding the convex dome caps.
The DualShock 4’s buttons differ slightly in functionality from the DualShock 3. Only the L2 and R2 triggers are pressure-sensitive, a change from the functionality of the DualShock 2 and 3. This is likely due to the fact that most games did not utilize these buttons as well as due to it not being used on competitors’ controllers.
The PlayStation 3 is forward compatible with the DualShock 4 (originally only via a microUSB cable). Firmware update 4.60 for the PS3 adds wireless connectivity; however, motion and vibration functions are not supported. As the START and SELECT buttons are no longer present, the OPTIONS and SHARE buttons respectively replace them. The PS button does not work, thus requiring the console to be reset in order to go back to the menu. The DualShock 4 is also compatible with PS4 titles on PlayStation 5.
Sony’s earlier DualShock 4 controllers (CUH-ZCT1 controllers) have wear issues with the rubber surface on both analog sticks which exhibited excessive wear or tearing after short-term use. In January 2014, Sony issued a statement acknowledging an issue on 10% of controllers.
On September 15, 2016, a second version of DualShock 4 controllers was released, the DualShock Version 2 (CUH-ZCT2), which hosts slight improvements over the original DualShock 4, including USB communication, improved triggers and joysticks, a longer battery life and the ability to see the light bar from the top of the touchpad.
In the first generation controller, the light bar is a permanently illuminated, bright-colored light. The needless light pollution and battery drain prompted inquiries as to whether the light bar could be switched off by users. Sony executive Shuhei Yoshida initially responded in the negative in July 2013, though game developers have the option to disable the light in game. In early 2014, the company announced that a future update would allow the light bar to be dimmed, which was delivered in 1.70 in April 2014.
The original DualShock 4 (CUH-ZCT1) is available in Jet Black, Glacier White, Urban Camouflage, Wave Blue (black back), Magma Red (black back), Gold, Silver, and Steel Black.
The newer DualShock 4 (CUH-ZCT2) has been produced in Jet Black, Glacier White, Green Camouflage, Blue Camouflage, Red Camouflage, Rose Gold, Electric Purple, Wave Blue (blue back), Magma Red (red back), Gold, Silver, Sunset Orange, Crystal, Red Crystal, Blue Crystal, Steel Black, Midnight Blue, Metallic Copper, Alpine Green, and Berry Blue.
Several versions of the DualShock 4 controller were released.
Exclusive console bundles with DualShock 4 include the 20th Anniversary Edition, Gun Metal, Batman: Arkham Knight, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Star Wars Battlefront, Monster Hunter World, God of War, Gran Turismo Sport, Call of Duty: World War II, The Days of Play, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Death Stranding, The Last of Us Part II, and the 500 Million Limited Edition PS4 Pro.
The DualSense (CFI-ZCT1W) is the PlayStation 5’s controller and was unveiled on April 7, 2020. It is based on the DualShock 4 controller that came before it but with an evolution to its design and capabilities influenced by discussions with game designers and players.
DualSense has several updates over DualShock:
The DualSense has become a subject of a class-action lawsuit due to a perceived drift in one of the analog sticks, being litigated by the same firm that is challenging Nintendo for a similar drift issue in its Joy-Con for the Switch.
The DualSense has a unique microtexture. There are 40,000 tiny symbols (square, triangle, circle, cross) stacked on top of each other. Multiple designs were hand-drawn, digitized, and made as prototypes before the design team settled on the current design. The larger symbols are half a millimeter wide. Sean Hollister, for The Verge, wrote an article examining the microtexture and its creation:
The company decided to apply a microtexture to the DualSense controller’s entire lower shell [making it] Sony’s most grippable gamepad yet because of the thousands upon thousands of tiny squares, triangles, circles, and crosses literally at your fingertips. … These tiny symbols are stacked on top of each other, jutting out in three dimensions. They’re not a single, evenly spaced layer at all … Morisawa, the senior art director of Sony’s Design Center product design group, explains that a variety of designs were handcrafted, digitized, mocked up, applied to actual prototype gamepads, and tested over and over again until the teams found the balance they wanted: good-looking, textured enough to be comfortable and non-slip, but not so sandpaper-rough that it’d hurt your hands over a lengthy gaming session.
Hollister’s article says one downside to the microtexture is “it picks up dirt extremely easily and doesn’t want to let go”.
The DualShock controller was given an Emmy Award for “Peripheral Development and Technological Impact of Video Game Controllers” by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences on January 8, 2007.